Amazon this week launched new technology to share the Internet among its customers, which the company says will improve the performance of some devices. But it also worries some privacy advocates.
If you have certain Alexa-enabled Echo devices or certain Ring camera models, Amazon will be able to use part of your home’s Wi-Fi to create a new network..
“Amazon Sidewalk is an ad hoc mesh network that takes advantage of your Amazon smart devices,” said Dan Patterson, CBS News technical reporter. The new service takes a small piece of WiFi in homes with certain Amazon products and uses it to create a shared network within neighborhoods. The so-called Sidewalk Bridge allows devices with spotty Wi-Fi to stay connected.
The wireless network also works with Tile trackers, which can be used to locate lost items like keys or pets.
Amazon maintains that the network protects privacy.
“Preserving customer privacy and security is central to how we built Amazon Sidewalk. Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data flowing over the network and to keep customers safe. and under control, ”the company said. He noted that the owners of Sidewalk Bridge “do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk and Amazon is unable to view the content of messages sent to Sidewalk.”
Jon Callas of the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the network will not affect Wi-Fi speeds. “The amount of network they say they are going to use is both very low bandwidth and relatively small,” did he declare. But Callas has concerns because users are automatically enrolled.
Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, has the same concerns.
“It should be an opt-in feature,” he said. “People pay a service charge to their cable provider for these services, don’t they? So for Amazon, helping themselves with that bandwidth is pretty questionable, I think.”
Amazon’s Echo and Ring devices are configured to connect to the Sidewalk Bridge. They include:
- Ring Projector Cam (2019)
- Spotlight Cam Wired Ring (2019)
- Spotlight Cam Mount Ring (2019)
- Echo (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd generation and newer) for kids
- Echo Dot with clock (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Plus (All generations)
- Echo Show (2nd generation and newer)
- Echo point
- Echo Studio
- Echo input
- Echo Flex
The network is enabled by default. Amazon customers who want to deactivate Sidewalk Bridge can deactivate it by following these steps:
- Open your Alexa app on your iPhone or Android device
- Tap the More menu
- Tap Settings
- Press Amazon Sidewalk
- Toggle the cursor to “disabled”