Last September, Activist Post reported about privacy and security warnings in re Amazon Sidewalk technology. Additional information was recently published about how it operates including in a White Paper published by the company.
How Amazon Sidewalk Works—and Why You May Want to Turn It Off
It promises connected convenience. But the ecommerce giant doesn’t exactly have an inspiring record when it comes to privacy.
After months of testing and delays, Amazon announced last Friday that it would finally launch Amazon Sidewalk on June 8: The new service will keep your Echo, Ring, and other Amazon devices connected to the internet, even if your internet service provider goes out. And as usual, your devices will be automatically enrolled in the program unless you opt out. Here are the potential benefits and the potential privacy issues to consider.
Amazon bills Sidewalk as “a new way to stay connected.” Simply put, it uses Amazon smart-home gear to create a series of mini mesh networks, meaning your devices can stay connected further away from your router, and even stay online when your Wi-Fi goes down.
To do this, Amazon uses Bluetooth and unused slices of the wireless spectrum, with Ring cameras and Echo speakers acting as the main bridges (actually called Sidewalk Bridges) to keep everything connected. For something to work with the network, it’s going to need to be compatible with the Sidewalk standard, so expect Amazon to make and market devices that meet that standard soon (for example, Tile is already on board. More on that in a moment.)
Even if your Ring camera is down at the end of the garden, out of reach of your main router, Sidewalk might be able to reach it through a device that’s closer. The network can’t carry much data at once, but these smart-home gadgets don’t necessarily need much bandwidth to stay online.
The potential range of the network is decent—up to half a mile depending on the setup—and Sidewalk is free for Amazon customers to use once they’ve bought the hardware. As an added bonus, it’ll speed up the process of adding new Amazon devices to your smart home, as your existing hardware will be able to lend a hand with Wi-Fi connections and configuration.
So far so tempting, but the more controversial part of Amazon Sidewalk is the way it shares some of your internet bandwidth with your neighbors (and gets some back in return), creating a much wider network of devices that can operate independently. If your internet goes down, your Ring camera can connect to the internet next door to keep sending you alerts, assuming both of you are set up with Sidewalk.
Of course, research has also determined that exposure to Bluetooth and WiFi are biologically harmful. This includes increasing our risk of developing cancer and various additional undesirable health issues. American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical experts continue to warn that children are more vulnerable to it. Pets are affected by exposure too. Having “smart” home sounds less appealing all the time, doesn’t it?