If you use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device, you only have 10 days to unsubscribe from an experiment where your privacy and security are at stake.
On June 8, the retailer, web host, and entertainment giant will automatically register the devices with Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless mesh service shares a small part of your internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who are not connected and helps you use their bandwidth when you are not connected.
Amazon devices such as Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cameras, outdoor lighting, motion sensors and tile trackers register in the system as standard. And since only a tiny fraction of people take the time to change the default settings, it means millions of people will be accepted into the program whether they know about it or not. The Amazon website linked above states that Sidewalk is “currently only available in the US”.
The website also states:
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that makes devices work better. Run by Amazon for free to customers, Sidewalk can help make new device setup easier, expand the workspace of low-bandwidth devices, find pets or valuables with tile trackers, and help keep devices online. even if you are out of range of your devices WiFi at home. In the future, Sidewalk will support a number of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as: B. Intelligent security and lighting as well as diagnostics for devices and tools.
How does Amazon Sidewalk affect my personal WiFi bandwidth and data usage?
The maximum bandwidth of a sidewalk bridge to the sidewalk server is 80 kbit / s, which is about 1/40 of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high-definition video. Today, if you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, the total monthly data Sidewalk uses per account is limited to 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of HD video.
Why should I participate in Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk helps your devices connect and stay connected. For example, if your Echo device loses its WiFi connection, Sidewalk can make it easy to reconnect to your router. On select Ring devices, you can still receive motion alerts from your Ring Security Cams, and customer support can resolve issues even if your devices lose their Wi-Fi connection. Sidewalk can also expand the workspace for your Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Amazon does not charge any fees for participating in Sidewalk.
Amazon has published a whitepaper detailing the technical basics and terms of service to protect the privacy and security of this bold company. To be fair, the paper is pretty comprehensive, and so far no one has pointed out any specific flaws that undermine encryption or other security measures. But there are enough theoretical risks to give users a break.
Wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have historically been unsafe. Do you remember WEP, the encryption scheme that protected WiFi traffic from being monitored by nearby parties? It was widely used for four years before researchers uncovered flaws that made it relatively easy for attackers to decrypt data. WPA, the technology that replaced WEP, is much more robust but also has a checkered history. Bluetooth has had some similar flaws over the years, either in the Bluetooth standard or in the way it is implemented in various products.
If industry standard wireless technologies have such a poor track record, why should we believe that a proprietary wireless system has one that is better?
The almighty Moloch
Next, consider the plethora of intimate details that Amazon devices are privy to. They see who is knocking on our doors, and in some houses they peek into our living rooms. You hear the conversations we have with friends and family. They control locks and other security systems in our house.
Extending the reach of all this encrypted data to the sidewalk and living room of neighbors requires a level of trust that is not guaranteed for a technology that has never been widely tested.
Let’s not forget who is offering this new opportunity for everyone to share and share equally. As the independent data protection researcher Ashkan Soltani puts it: “In addition to recording everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their internet activities (as AWS is one of the most dominant web hosting services) … global ISP at the push of a button, without a single foot of fiber to have to embarrass. “
Amazon’s decision to make Sidewalk an opt-out service rather than an opt-in service is also instructive. The company knows that the only chance the service will gain critical mass is to enable it by default. Fortunately, turning the sidewalk off is relatively painless. It contains:
- Open the Alexa app
- Open More and select Settings
- Select account settings
- Select Amazon Sidewalk
- Turn off Amazon sidewalk
Undoubtedly, for some people, the benefits of sidewalk will outweigh the risks. But for the many, if not the vast majority, of users, there are few advantages and many disadvantages. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for comment.