The Associated PressJune 11, 2021 2:05:36 PM
Do you have a smart device from Amazon? If so, it is very likely that the company is already sharing its Internet connection with its neighbors, unless you have specifically told it not to.
On Tuesday, the company launched a program that forces users of many Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras to automatically share a small portion of their home’s wireless bandwidth with neighbors. The only way to stop it is to turn it off yourself.
Amazon says the program, called Amazon sidewalk, is a way to ensure that lights, smart locks, and other devices outside the home and out of range of a Wi-Fi connection continue to work.
But some experts caution that the technology is so new that privacy and security risks remain unclear. And hardly anyone seems happy that Amazon has forced consumers into Amazon Sidewalk, or that many people don’t know that they can choose not to.
Did Amazon tell customers this was happening?
Amazon says it sent emails to customers last month and in November that Sidewalk was coming. The company says that you will also receive a notification when you configure devices that work with Sidewalk.
How can I stop this?
Once you know it, it’s relatively straightforward, if not exactly simple, to opt out of the curb. Echo users can log into the Alexa app, tap “More” in the lower right corner, then tap “Settings,” then “Account Settings,” where they’ll find a section for Amazon Sidewalk and a button to disable it. In the Ring app, go to “Control Center” and then tap “Sidewalk.”
Why is Amazon doing this?
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 come together to create this network by taking a portion of bandwidth from each cooperative home network. That can expand the range of devices designed to work with the curb, so that they will stay connected even when they are away from your home network.
An example of such a device is the tile, a tracking device that can be attached to a dog’s keys or collar. If your dog gets lost in a neighborhood where Sidewalk works, he could quickly show up through Tile.
Other products that work with Sidewalk include smart locks that can be controlled by phone and wearable devices that can track people with dementia who may wander. Amazon expects additional devices, including exterior lights and motion detectors, to work with the sidewalk in no time.
How does it work?
Amazon is leveraging a variety of radio technologies, including one called LoRa for its long range and best known for its industrial and commercial applications, such as tracking cattle that roam the grasslands.
“The goal here is not to create coverage for a single home,” said Marc Pegulu of chipmaker Semtech, which is partnering with Amazon on the technology. “It’s a kind of shared network, a shared community network.”