Owners of Amazon devices in the United States will automatically share their WiFi as of June 8 as part of a program called Amazon Sidewalk.
According to a new report from Ars Technica, Amazon is getting ready to switch on a new service called Amazon Sidewalk, and if you own an Echo device, or a Ring Floodlight and Spotlight Cam, then the chances are that you are going to start donating part of your internet connection to making this work.
Pitched by Amazon as a shared network that helps devices such as Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors and Tile trackers “work better at home and beyond the front door,” Sidewalk is claimed to unlock unique benefits for devices.
Sidewalk creates a low-bandwidth mesh network with the help of Sidewalk Bridge devices, including select Echo and Ring devices. These Bridge devices are said to share a small portion of users’ internet bandwidth, which is pooled together to provide these services to other users and their neighbors.
Last September the tech was described as “a solution that makes it easy to set up mesh networks in the house with other Amazon devices such as Ring Smart Lighting that may be beyond the range of home WiFi.” What wasn’t perhaps made clear is that it involved using WiFi provided by neighbors who also have Amazon devices.
The idea of mesh networks isn’t new, but where Amazon Sidewalk becomes interesting is that the new internet sharing feature is opt-out only, raising potential privacy concerns.
Amazon claims otherwise, saying that “Sidewalk protects customer privacy by limiting the amount and type of metadata that Amazon needs to receive from Sidewalk endpoints to manage the network.” But ultimately, unless users opt out, they are forced to share their WiFi connections.
While the security guarantees of the undertaking are without a doubt a step in the right direction, it’s been established repeatedly that wireless technologies like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are prone to critical flaws that leave devices vulnerable to a variety of attacks, and a proprietary communication protocol like Sidewalk could be no exception.