Amazon launched a program that forces users of many Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras 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.

This is called Amazon Sidewalk, is a way to make sure lights, smart locks and other gadgets outside the home and out of reach of a Wi-Fi connection stay working.

Benefits Of Sidewalk

The idea behind Sidewalk is to integrate residential wireless connections into a “mesh network” that can extend coverage to areas that home Wi-Fi cannot reach. Amazon’s Echo and Ring devices team up to create this network by grabbing a slice of bandwidth from each cooperative home network. This can expand the range of devices designed to work with Sidewalk so they stay connected even when they’re away from your home network.

Working

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. It would make it easier and cheaper to use internet-connected devices and sensors and spark new innovations. when a behemoth like Amazon, or Apple or Google or Microsoft, create a platform, they also can end up controlling the platform and that can stifle innovation.

Risk

Main risk is hackers could observe everything you do, take over your devices or access your files to steal information. The program was “uncharted territory” and that people should opt-out of Sidewalk unless they are sure their privacy and security will be protected.

Privacy

Asked about privacy and security concerns, an Amazon spokesperson said he couldn’t respond to “what-if situations.” The company did not respond to a request to make an executive available for an interview, but said data passing through its network has three layers of encryption designed to prevent hackers from seeing it.

Sidewalk-enabled Ring devices include the Ring Floodlight Cam; Ring Spotlight Cam Wired; and Ring Spotlight Cam Mount.

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