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Amazon Sidewalk To Share Internet With Neighbors Via Echo Devices; Privacy At Risk?
When you turn on Wi-Fi connections on your smartphone, you'll generally find a list of nearby connections. While you would require a password to connect to a Wi-Fi network, there have been instances where your neighbors tap into your router network. From the looks of it, Amazon is going to make this simpler with its automatic internet sharing feature.
Amazon has plenty of hardware gadgets under its belt, including the Alexa-enabled Echo speakers. If you're using Echo or any other Amazon device, you could be part of beta testing. No, this isn't something to check Alexa's performance - rather, Amazon is working on a feature called Amazon Sidewalk.
Amazon Sidewalk: What Is It?
Amazon Sidewalk is one of the latest experiments from the tech giant. The new feature will automatically share your internet connection with neighboring Amazon devices when they don't have the connectivity. If you face a similar instance of connection loss, the Amazon Sidewalk will automatically take your neighbor's internet and provide it to your Amazon device.
What looks like seamless, always-on connectivity is also wrapped with several privacy and security concerns. For one, you don't really have an option to stop the internet sharing feature if you own an Amazon device. Ars Technica reports that the new feature is going to become a default feature unless users change it in their settings.
The report further notes the new Amazon Sidewalk will roll out on June 8, giving users just a few days to change the settings. Here's the list of devices that are going to be part of the internet-sharing experiment:
Echo (3rd gen and newer)
Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
Echo Plus (all generations)
Echo Show (all models and generations)
Ring Floodlight Cam
Ring Spotlight Cam Wired
Ring Spotlight Cam Mount
Amazon Sidewalk: Risk Factors Explained
Amazon has published a white paper explaining all the technical details on how Sidewalk would work. It also mentions about protecting the privacy and security of users, which looks solid on paper. However, the practicality of the new experiment certainly raises a lot of questions - especially in a country like India!
Both Wi-fi and Bluetooth are some of the most prone gateways for any cyberattack. For all we know, Amazon Sidewalk could potentially be opening this gateway despite all the top-notch encryptions. Moreover, Amazon devices already have their share of privacy concerns. We've heard plenty of stories of Alexa listening to your conversations via Echo, even when it wasn't supposed to. Now imagine all this data easily circulating across to your neighbors!
Amazon Sidewalk: How To Turn Off Settings?
Luckily, there are a couple of easy steps to take to turn off the settings before the Amazon Sidewalk goes live on June 8. Presently, the feature is going to be turned on by default, which means you'll need to opt out manually (not the other way round as it's supposed to be).
Here are the steps to do it: Firstly, open the Alexa app > More > Settings. Here, select Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk. You'll find an option to turn off Amazon Sidewalk here. Currently, the Amazon Sidewalk will begin experimenting in the US and could take a while to reach the Indian audience.