Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Amazon Sidewalk

Alex Hern (via Hacker News):

Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan that would turn every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the US into a shared wireless network, as part of the company’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices.

The proposal, called Amazon Sidewalk, involves the company’s devices being used as a springboard to build city-wide “mesh networks” that help simplify the process of setting up new devices, keep them online even if they’re out of range of home wifi, and extend the range of tracking devices such as those made by Tile.

Mike Prospero and Ian Morris:

As mentioned above, Sidewalk is essentially an open network. That means that any device that is Sidewalk-enabled can connect to your Sidewalk bridge. However, those devices don’t have unfettered access to your Wi-Fi network — no one’s going to be watching Netflix using your Wi-Fi — nor can you see what devices are connected to your Sidewalk bridge. Additionally, any information that’s sent via Sidewalk Bridges is encrypted.

However, if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of others using your network, you can opt to turn off Sidewalk. You can’t selectively turn off Sidewalk for specific devices; rather, you can only activate or deactivate it for all Echo and Ring devices linked to your account.

This is done in the settings of the Alexa app. I don’t recall opting out or even being aware of this when setting up my Echo, but when I checked the setting today it was already disabled.

Dan Goodin (via John Gruber):

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.

Update (2021-06-04): John Gruber:

The thing to consider is whether you trust Echo and Ring devices with your privacy. If you do, you might as well participate in Sidewalk. It’s not that different, conceptually, from Apple’s Find My network.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

I'm just amazed at the audacity of it.

Comcast does this too, of course -- if you have a Comcast wireless modem and haven't opted out, you're probably an XFinity hotspot -- but at least they aren't charging that use against your bandwidth consumption. Now, along comes Amazon, who cheerfully assumes you won't mind subsidizing their new venture, literally on your own dime. Nevermind that it's "only" 500MB; I bet they wouldn't consider this arrangement satisfactory in reverse.

Absent a compelling regulatory justification (as with shared municipal fiber, etc), why on earth would any (fully informed) individual agree to the use of their physical plant to further someone else's business interests without any compensation?

Has Amazon published an API through which I can bill them for their use of my bandwidth?

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