Amazon devices to start sharing connections with neighbors

After months of testing Amazon is launching Sidewalk, a shared network that will connect Amazon-enabled smart devices.

Amazon Sidewalk, which is set to debut on June 8, is a low-bandwidth network that taps into a customer’s home WiFi to connect Alexa smart speakers, Ring security cameras, Tile location trackers and other outdoor sensors. 

Sidewalk works by having users of these products share a small portion of their bandwidth with other Amazon customers, enabling neighboring devices to connect at long-range. Amazon says the network will allow users to locate lost keys or missing pets, set up and fix devices remotely, and work over longer distances. Sidewalk is also built into AWS, Amazon’s cloud technology platform. This will allow software developers to create applications that take advantage of the technology.

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Amazon did not provide security details, but did say Sidewalk cannot be used to spy on other Amazon users and that the network uses “multiple layers” of encryption to protect people’s privacy.

But critics are raising concerns, saying that any network is potentially vulnerable to hacking and that Amazon hasn’t adequately explained what customers can do with Sidewalk as it automatically enrolls all Amazon device users into the program. Sidewalk is enabled by default, meaning that Alexa and Ring users have a limited window to deactivate the service. 

“How far I can trust Amazon continues to diminish,” Corey Quinn, cloud economist at The Duckbill Group and author of a popular newsletter on AWS said on Twitter.

Users who wish to turn off Amazon Sidewalk can follow these steps:

  • Open your Alexa app on your iPhone or Android device
  • Tap the More menu
  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Amazon Sidewalk
  • Toggle the slider to “off”

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