Amazon Devices Will Soon Default to Sharing Your Wi-Fi With Other Nearby Amazon Devices

Dan Goodin, reporting for Ars Technica:

On June 8, the merchant, Web host, and entertainment behemoth will automatically enroll the devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless mesh service will share a small slice of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have connectivity and help you to their bandwidth when you don’t have a connection.

By default, Amazon devices including Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers will enroll in the system. And since only a tiny fraction of people take the time to change default settings, that means millions of people will be co-opted into the program whether they know anything about it or not. The Amazon webpage linked above says Sidewalk “is currently only available in the US.” […]

Amazon has published a white paper detailing the technical underpinnings and service terms that it says will protect the privacy and security of this bold undertaking. To be fair, the paper is fairly comprehensive, and so far no one has pointed out specific flaws that undermine the encryption or other safeguards being put in place. But there are enough theoretical risks to give users pause.

The instructions for opting out are easy, but this seems like something that ought to be opt-in, not opt-out. (My only Amazon device that’s plugged in is a first-generation Echo, which is too old for Sidewalk, so I don’t even see the preference setting in the Alexa app. Apparently the setting only appears if you have at least one eligible device — you can’t opt-out in advance.)

Tuesday, 1 June 2021