There is eyebrow-raising technology embedded in millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and ring security cameras. They have the ability to create a new type of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares your home’s Internet connection with your neighbor’s devices.
And on Tuesday, Amazon will open Sidewalk for everyone.
I’m digging into my settings to turn it off. Sidewalks raise red flags over parades: Is it safe enough to run in many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a larger network that can be used for additional surveillance, and why isn’t Amazon asking us to opt in before enabling dormant capabilities? in our device
I advise you to opt out of the pavement as well. until we get better answers to these questions.
Sidewalks will cover America̵7;s urban and suburban areas with low-bandwidth wireless networks that can extend half a mile and reach places and things that used to be too difficult or too expensive to connect. There can be several benefits, such as making it easier to set up smart home devices where your Wi-Fi is inaccessible. (It can help your neighbors and yourself), but joining You still can’t control what kind of information you’re helping. In communities where Amazon Ring devices already control multiple gates and driveways, Sidewalk can add even more surveillance and tracking power. or even an Amazon drone.
Amazon seems to have clearly forgotten consumer concerns about its increasingly widespread technology. Let me say: activating our device remotely to create an Amazon closed internet is not possible.
(Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, but I examine all the technology with the same critical eye.)
Amazon declined my request to interview the executive in charge of Sidewalk, but via email said it was making our tech jobs better. “We live in an increasingly connected world. Where customers want their devices to connect, we built Sidewalk to improve the customer experience with their devices. and for the benefit of their community,” said Manolo Arana, General Manager of Sidewalk.
The reasons we need Sidewalk, he said, include getting constant motion alerts from the Ring security camera. As they lose Wi-Fi or expand the range of smart lights, later this month, Amazon is also adding a Bluetooth lost item tracker tile and smart lock maker tier to its Sidewalk network and is partnering with CareBand, maker of dual-use sensors. Wearable for people with dementia in the pilot test This includes indoor and outdoor tracking. and help button
But Sidewalk is also a massive new wireless network, controlled entirely by Amazon — and paid for by us.
how does it work
Amazon isn’t the only big company working to get more connected to the internet by helping us. But it does it in a more aggressive manner.
The new iPhone collects and transmits a little bit of other people’s data for Apple’s Find My network, which is used to report the location of lost devices and AirTag trackers, routers that Comcast puts double in our homes. Auto is a hotspot for other Xfinity customers, even if they create a separate Wi-Fi network for public traffic.
With Sidewalk, Amazon is building an even stronger network for your humble Echo speaker. Your device (or other compatible device) is now connected to your personal Internet connection in your home. When Amazon converts it to the so-called Sidewalk Bridge, your device creates its own new network that isn’t Wi-Fi, but uses it. General Bluetooth to connect nearby devices and other types of signals (using 900 MHz frequency) to connect to devices that is half a mile away
This new Sidewalk network can’t transmit as much data as Wi-Fi, but it’s still impressive: The sidewalk signals from all the Amazon devices in your neighborhood overlap and combine to form what is known as a mesh network.
“Wi-Fi is mostly confined to your home. It has no range to enter your backyard and in the neighborhood. Cellular offers long-distance connections, but they are expensive. The pavement distinguishes between the two and allows us to place billions of things at the edge of the network,” Arana said.
But here’s the downfall: The pavement allows your Echo to share some of your home’s internet bandwidth, up to 500 megabytes per month — the equivalent of more than 150 mobile photos. Amazon limits speeds to 80 Kbps, which the company does. This is said to be a fraction of the bandwidth used to stream typical HD video. However, this traffic can count towards your ISP’s data limit. If you have one, you pay the bill. not amazon
Which begs the question, shouldn’t Amazon pay us?
It’s not hard to imagine that Amazon could use Sidewalk for its own business, for example to track packages or connect delivery trucks.
Arana said, “Our focus right now is making our customers’ devices work better. I cannot comment on future roadmaps.”
Is the sidewalk safe?
Amazon says it built Sidewalk with triple encryption. So that no one can see the raw data being transmitted, not Amazon, not sharing the internet.
Tech industry analyst Patrick Moorhead told me he was impressed with Amazon’s efforts to prevent spying. “I haven’t seen many systems with triple protection and triple encryption,” he said. “That said, there are no faults.” Even security standards for Wi-Fi have been cracked over the years.
Some other security experts are not keen on opening any portal outside the security boundaries of your home network, no matter what Amazon promises.
There is no evidence that hackers or independent researchers have found problems with sidewalks. But it still hasn’t become a famous target.
build big brother
Overall, there are concerns. Today, Amazon says Sidewalk will help about a quarter of Americans’ homes with smart home appliances connected and connected. But usually Amazon isn’t very ambitious.
At the very least, Sidewalk could potentially increase access to Amazon’s booming but highly controversial Ring Security business, where police forces have requested more than 20,000 videos by 2020. The sidewalk will allow people and corporations to put Ring devices in place. that is not possible before
Matthew Guariglia, a policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation that focuses on technological freedom, said: “It is slowly eliminating the idea of ’informal’ even though Amazon is a private company. But that doesn’t mean the surveillance technology sold is harmless.
“As long as Amazon stores all that data … the police have access to all of that information. It is impossible to think of things as just private or public surveillance anymore.”
Amazon is vague about the types of data that can be transferred across networks. In addition to some less intimidating examples, such as receiving notifications. software update and the location of the lost item “As a low-bandwidth network, Sidewalk intends to transmit small amounts of data,” Arana said.
lack of consent
Last but not least, Amazon should share our Internet connection with what we choose to use. rather than just opening it
Amazon is enabling Sidewalk on devices that revert back to at least third-generation Echo speakers from 2018, although it tells me they can only join the Bluetooth portion of the network. bluetooth (But not that one day it might use them to create a network.) Echo devices that could join the long-term segment include the Echo and the latest Echo Show 10, both announced in 2020.
“We believe that pavements provide value to every customer. And we wanted to make it easy for them to take advantage of the benefits,” Arana said. “Customers setting up an eligible Echo device for the first time have the opportunity to disable Sidewalk during device setup. and will receive a separate notification shortly after setup as well.”
When I set up my new Echo speaker last November, the Alexa app opened up a web page about it. With only two options: “Enable” and “Later.” Amazon said earlier this year it changed the screen to make it clearer that customers can opt-out.
Will Sidewalk’s capabilities still be latent on older Amazon devices that will be enabled in the future? Amazon’s Arana will simply reply: “We are unable to comment on future plans.”
how to cover the pavement
Closing the pavement is not difficult. But need to study some settings.
If you have an Echo device, go to the Alexa app on your phone and tap the More icon. Then tap on Settings. Then tap on Account Settings. Then tap on Amazon Sidewalk, making sure “Enabled” is set to Off.
If you have a Ring device, go to the Ring app on your phone, then tap the three bars in the top left corner to go to the menu. Then tap Control Center. Then scroll down to Amazon Sidewalk.
If you turn off the pavement on a type of device All such devices will cover you. (Some have complained that they turned off the pavement setting. but turned itself back on, Amazon said it fixed the problem)
Another thing to keep in mind: there is no halfway option. If you close the sidewalk You will not share your network with neighbors. But your device will not be able to access the network.