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Amazon turns on internet-sharing feature on users’ devices

Consumers who don’t want Amazon Sidewalk active can opt out

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Photo (c) seewhatmitchsee - Getty Images
Amazon has activated Sidewalk, a new opt-in service that lets users share internet between Amazon devices that are always on. Sidewalk enables compatible Amazon devices, like Echo smart speakers and Ring cameras, to create a larger web of connectivity. 

Amazon said Sidewalk should make the process of setting up new devices faster and easier and allow for more expansive location tracking and notifications from devices. The company also noted that the service should help certain devices stay connected to the internet if they’re prone to being knocked offline because of wireless range issues.

Sidewalk lets customers contribute a small portion of their internet bandwidth to their greater neighborhood network. By pooling it together, users can “create a network that benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community,” Amazon stated. 

“This can include experiences ranging from finding pets or valuables that may be lost and improving reliability for devices like leak sensors or smart lighting, to diagnostics for appliances and power tools. For example, smart lighting at the edge of a user’s property, or a garage door lock in a poor coverage zone, can receive connectivity support from a participating neighbor’s gateway and continue to operate if the device falls offline for a period of time.”

Privacy and security

The company said privacy and security were of paramount importance when designing Sidewalk. Amazon even released a white paper detailing the protections integrated into the service. However, some security researchers say there’s still a risk that user data could be compromised. 

“Amazon uses layered security and restricts the amount of data that the gateway, application, and cloud can see, but every system has bugs, and it’s really hard to tell until time passes and things are found,” Omar Alrawi, founder of the YourThings project and a Ph.D. candidate at Georgia Tech specializing in security for smart-home Internet of Things devices, told the New York Times

“I think the third-party integration is a potential issue. How do you enforce that a third party won’t abuse your information?”

Participation optional

Starting Tuesday, Amazon devices will automatically start participating in the service. It is, however, completely optional for users to keep it activated. Sidewalk can be turned on or off at any time through a simple change in settings. 

Here’s how to turn it off on Ring and Echo devices: 

  • On Echo speakers. Open the Alexa mobile app and go to More, Settings, Account Settings, Amazon Sidewalk, and choose ‘Disable.’

  • Ring app. Go to the Control Center, Amazon Sidewalk, Disable, Confirm.

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