Amazon launched new technology this week to share the internet among its customers, which the company says will improve the performance of some devices. But it also has some affected privacy advocates.
If you own certain Alexa-enabled Echo devices or some Ring camera models, Amazon can use part of your home Wi-Fi to create a new network.
“Amazon Sidewalk is an ad-hoc mesh network that leverages your Amazon-smart devices,” said CBS News tech reporter Dan Patterson. The new service takes a little bit of WiFi at home with certain Amazon products and uses it to set up a shared network within neighborhoods. The so-called Sidewalk Bridge allows devices with spotted Wi-Fi to stay connected.
The wireless network also works with tile trackers, which can be used to find lost items such as keys or pets.
Amazon maintains that the network is privacy protected.
“Maintaining customer privacy and security is fundamental to how we built the Amazon Sidewalk. The Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data that travels on the network and to keep customers safe and in control,”
Jon Callas of the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the network does not affect Wi-Fi speeds. “The amount of networks they say they want to use is both very low bandwidth and relatively small,” he said. But Callas is concerned because users automatically sign up.
Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, has the same concerns.
“This should very much be an opt-in feature,” he said. “People pay a service fee to their cable provider for these services, right? So for Amazon to help itself with that bandwidth, it’s pretty questionable, I think.”
Amazon Echo and Ring devices are set to connect to the Sidewalk Bridge. They include:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd generation and newer) for children
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd generation and newer)
- Echo Plus (all generations)
- Echo Show (2nd generation and newer)
- Echo spot
- Echo study
- Echo input
- Echo Flex
The network is enabled by default. Amazon customers wishing to opt out of the Sidewalk Bridge can turn it off by following these steps:
- Open your Alexa app on your iPhone or Android device
- Touch the More menu
- Touch Settings
- Tap Amazon Sidewalk
- Change slider to “off”