If you use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device, you have several days to opt-out of an experience that leaves your personal privacy and security hanging in the balance. On June 8, Amazon will automatically enroll devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless network service shares a small slice of the Internet's bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don't have a connection. By default, Amazon devices including Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cameras, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers are enrolled in the system.
And given that only a small portion of people change the default settings, this means that millions of people are involved in the program whether they know anything about it or not. Amazon notes that Amazon Sidewalk is currently only available in the US.
The company published a white paper detailing the technical foundations and terms of service that it says to protect the privacy and security of subscribers. No one has yet indicated specific flaws that undermine encryption or other safeguards being put in place. But there are enough theoretical risks. Wireless technologies have a long history of being unsafe. WEP encryption was widely used for four years before researchers uncovered flaws.
WPA, the technology that replaced WEP, is more powerful, but it also has a checkered history. Bluetooth has had its share of similar vulnerabilities over the years, too. Either in the Bluetooth standard or in the way it is implemented in many products. There is a wealth of detail that Amazon devices have. Extending the reach of all this encrypted data outside the home requires an unjustified level of trust for a technology that has not been extensively tested before.
Amazon understands that the only chance for the service to gain a large fan base is to have it turned on by default. There is no doubt that the benefits of Amazon Sidewalk for some people outweigh the risks. But for many, if not the vast majority of users, there is very little upside and a lot of downsides.
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
It is a free shared network that helps devices work better. They can help simplify setting up a new device. And it expanded the work of low-bandwidth devices to help find things with Tile trackers. It helps devices stay connected to the Internet even when they are outside of your home wireless network.
How does it affect the wireless network?
The maximum bandwidth of the Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk Server is about 80 kbps. And when you share your Bridge connection with Sidewalk, the total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is 500MB.