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Amazon devices will soon share your internet with your neighbors

Do you have Amazon Echo devices in your office? Or Ring lights and cameras? If so, you have 5 days to opt-OUT of a program that you should know about.

On June 8th, Amazon will automatically share your internet to help you and your neighbors, by using Echo and Ring devices as wireless “bridges.” This is a new wireless mesh service called Amazon Sidewalk.

The goal is to make device setup easier, and to allow one device to piggy-back off of another one, should there be an internet issue, or one device be too far from your wi-fi to get it’s own stable signal. The assumption of security is what concerns us, especially for businesses. First, you have to opt-out, not in. If you don’t, your devices will auto-enroll in the program on June 8th, next Tuesday. Second, wi-fi has a history of being compromised across many hardware and software platforms over the years, which you can read about here, here, and here. The nature of Amazon smart devices is that they see your surroundings, and they hear your conversations. Consider the implications of this information being potentially exposed to your neighbors, or hackers. Is this prudent?

These devices are worming their way into our homes and our businesses, and it certainly can spur some heated debates amongst our team and our colleagues. We love the convenience but are also suspicious at the eroding of privacy. The fact that it’s a quiet opt-out, and not an explicitly advertised opt-in, should give you pause.

We are a cautious bunch, especially when it comes to network security and privacy. Yes, Amazon has detailed the security protocols in place, and no, we don’t know of any explicit flaws in the plan. Then again, do you feel safe letting your home or business be a guinea pig? Is there any benefit to letting your systems and network be used in this way?

Fortunately, turning it off for your account is straight-forward.

  1. Opening the Alexa app
  2. Opening More and selecting Settings
  3. Selecting Account Settings
  4. Selecting Amazon Sidewalk
  5. Turning Amazon Sidewalk Off

Note that we’ve read many reports that users can’t find the option to turn it off. We are in that same boat – we have older Echo devices, not the newer generations mentioned in their documentation. We have a ticket open with Amazon and are trying to confirm the option won’t even show up if you don’t have any of the compatible devices in your account. Note that also means that should you purchase one in the future, it would seem you can’t preemptively disable this service.

There may be some long-term benefit to this kind of mesh system in the future, but we’d like to see the testing and results over time before we opt-in.

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