LOS ANGELES, CA (CBS Newspath) – Amazon is launching new technology today (June 8th, 2021) that the company says will enhance the performance of some devices. But it also has some privacy advocates concerned.
If you own certain Alexa enabled Echo devices or some Ring camera models, Amazon will be able to use part of your home’s Wi-Fi to create a new network called Amazon Sidewalk. “Amazon Sidewalk is an ad hoc mesh network that takes advantage of your Amazon smart devices,” says CBS News tech reporter Dan Patterson.
Patterson says the new service takes a small sliver of Wi-Fi at homes with certain Amazon products to create a shared network within neighborhoods. The so-called Sidewalk bridge allows devices with spotty Wi-Fi to stay connected.
The wireless network also works with Tile trackers which can be used to locate lost items like keys or pets.
Amazon says: “Preserving customer privacy and security is foundational to how we’ve built Amazon Sidewalk. Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data traveling on the network and to keep customers safe and in control. For example, Sidewalk Bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk and Amazon is not able to see the contents of messages sent over Sidewalk.”
Jon Callas from the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the network won’t affect Wi-Fi speeds. “The amount of network that they say that they’re going to be using is both very low bandwidth and relatively small,” he says. But Callas has concerns because users are automatically enrolled.
“This should very much be an opt in feature,” says Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission. “People pay a service fee to their cable provider for these services, right, so for Amazon to help themselves to that bandwidth is pretty questionable, I think.”
People who want to opt-out of the shared network can go into their Ring or Amazon app and turn it off.
Amazon says, “Sidewalk Bridges include many Echo devices and select Ring Floodlight and Spotlight Cams,” including:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd Gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd Gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd Gen and newer) for Kids
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd Gen and newer)
- Echo Plus (All generations)
- Echo Show (2nd Gen and newer)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input
- Echo Flex