It seems Amazon wants to use every user they have for an experiment you wouldn’t even know about unless someone told you or you read about it. If you own Amazon products like Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cams, and Tile trackers, etc., you’ll automatically opt-in to an experiment that may leave your security and privacy in danger. Amazon won’t even notify you or ask for your permission but you can choose to opt out before their program starts.
Amazon will automatically enroll every device they have in their Amazon Sidewalk. Amazon Sidewalk is a new wireless mesh service that will share a small part of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have their own connection. This will work both ways if you don’t have a connection. I don’t really see the upsides to this, almost everyone has an active internet connection but the real problem is the security risks.
Giving access to an external device to your Wi-Fi can put all your connected devices at risk. Someone who knows his way with computers could breach all of your devices if they are connected to the same network. By default, devices will be enrolled in the system and since most people don’t bother changing default settings, this means millions will be sharing their internet and they probably wouldn’t even know.
According to the Amazon webpage, “Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers, Sidewalk can help simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices to help find pets or valuables with Tile trackers, and help devices stay online even if they are outside the range of their home wifi. In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security and lighting and diagnostics for appliances and tools”.
Now I know it sounds fancy and looks like something really helpful but underneath all the niceness it is basically saying that you’ll be openly sharing your wifi with other people. Amazon has released a whitepaper called “Amazon Sidewalk Privacy and Security Whitepaper”. It basically details all the privacy and security aspects of the new program. Overall it says that it will protect the privacy and security of the users the have opted into the service.
So for those of you who find out about Amazon Sidewalk and don’t want strangers gaining access to your wifi, then here’s how you can opt-out of the service. Basically
- Open the Alexa app
- Open the More section and select Settings
- Select Account Settings
- Select Amazon Sidewalk
- Turn Amazon Sidewalk off
It’s a good thing that opting out is fairly simple and painless. We aren’t sure if the benefits of the service will outweigh the downsides but we’ll have to wait for June 8, when the service launches, to see for ourselves.