NEW YORK — Do you own an? If so, the odds are good that the company is already sharing your connection with your neighbors unless you’ve specifically told it not to. On Tuesday, the company launched a program that forces users of many Echo smart speakers and Rings to automatically share a small portion of their home wireless bandwidth with neighbors. The only way to stop it is to turn it off yourself.
Amazonto make sure lights, smart locks, and other gadgets outside the home and out of reach of a Wi-Fi connection stay working. But some that the technology is so new that privacy and security risks remain unclear. And almost no one seems happy that Amazon forced consumers into Amazon Sidewalk — or that many may not know they can opt-out of it.
DID AMAZON TELL CUSTOMERS THIS WAS HAPPENING?
Amazonlast month and that Sidewalk was coming in November. The you’ll also get a notification when you set up gadgets that work with Sidewalk.
HOW CAN I STOP THIS?
Once you know about it, opting out of Sidewalk is relatively straightforward, if not exactly simple. Echo, tap “More” in the lower right-hand corner, then tap “Settings,” then “Account Settings,” where they’ll find a section for Amazon Sidewalk and a button to disable it. Goo to “Control Center” in the Ring app and tap “Sidewalk.”
WHY IS AMAZON DOING THIS?
The idea behind Sidewalk is to integrate residential wireless connections into a “meshcan’t reach. band together to create this network by grabbing a slice of bandwidth from each cooperative home network. That can extend the range of devices to work with Sidewalk so they’ll stay connected even when away from your home network.
One example of such a device is Tile, a tracking device placed on keys or a dog’s collar. If your dog goes missing in a neighborhood where Sidewalk works, it might turn up quickly via Tile. Other products with Sidewalk include smart locks controlled by phone and wearable devices that can track people with dementia who may wander. Amazon expects additional devices, including outdoor lights and motion detectors, wto work with Sidewalk
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Amazon is tapping into various radio technologies, including LoRa, for its long-range. It is better known for industrial and business applications such as keeping track of cattle roaming through pasturelands. “The goal here is not to create coverage for a single home,” said Marc Pegulu of chipmaker Semtech, which is partnering with Amazon on the technology. “It’s kind of a shared network, a community shared network.” Among other things, devices connected to the shared network can supposedly search for the best signal in a way that can preserve their battery life.
Thomas Clausen, a computer science professor at France’s École Polytechnique, says that the network Amazon is creating could be good ifbecause it would make it easier and cheaper to use internet-connected devices and sensors and spark innovations. “But of course, when a behemoth like Amazon, or or Microsoft, create a platform, they also can end up controlling the platform, which can stifle innovation,” he says.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Hackers couldnetworks via Sidewalk, said Eric Null, a digital rights group Access Now policy manager. If that happens, Null said hackers could observe everything you do, take over your devices or access your files to steal information. “It’s only a matter of time before someone’s network gets hacked and data gets breached,” said Null. William Tong, Connecticut’s attorney general, warned consumers this that the program was “uncharted territory” and that people should opt-out of Sidewalk unless they are sure their privacy and security will be protected. “Wireless networks are already notoriously vulnerable to hacks and breaches,” Tong said. “Families need better information and more time before a portion of their bandwidth to this new system.”
WHAT DOES AMAZON SAY?
When asked about privacy and security concerns, an Amazon spokesman said he couldn’t respond to “hypothetical situations.” The company didn’t respond to a request to make an executive available for an interview but noted that data that flows through its network has three-layers of encryption meant to keep hackers from seeing it. Samir Jain, policy directory at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said . But Jain said that it’s hard to identify security vulnerabilities until a new technology is deployed in the .
WHICH DEVICES WANT TO SHARE MY INTERNET?
, Echo Dot for Kids, and the Echo Dot with Clock. The Echo Show 5, 8, 10; the second generation of the Echo Show; Echo Spot; Echo Plus; Echo Studio; Echo Input; Echo Flex. Sidewalk-enabled Ring devices include the Ring Floodlight Cam, Ring Spotlight Cam Wired, and Ring Spotlight Cam Mount.
DOES AMAZON HAVE BIGGER AMBITIONS?
such as cameras and speakers. But it could also one delivering goods. For example, the company could embed tiny internet-connected devices into cardboard packages to help track them, said Clausen of École Polytechnique. “Having the integration of alarm systems, presence detection of whether or not people are there, will potentially allow Amazon to create more efficient delivery schedules and fewer re-deliveries,” he says. That could be one application Amazon is thinking about, he added.