Amazon Sidewalk Wi-Fi sharing experiment goes live next month

JC Torres - May 30, 2021, 7:24pm CDT
Amazon Sidewalk Wi-Fi sharing experiment goes live next month

It might not be as big a name in tech as Google or Apple or Microsoft or in social networking like Facebook but it’s hard to argue that Amazon may have actually trumped them all. Best known for its e-tailer business, Amazon’s empire actually covers a whole range of industries and there seems to be no stopping its ambitions even in the face of controversy, criticism, and lawsuits. Its latest will surely put it under a microscope once more as it prepares to flip the switch on its controversial Internet sharing experiment known as Amazon Sidewalk.

Mesh networks are nothing new, of course, and are even becoming more common inside homes and small offices. Each node not only extends the network in places the source, like a router, can’t reach, it can also become a backup in case one node goes down. It’s that nature of mesh networks that Amazon Sidewalk is trying to capitalize on but, of course, with some extensions that are ruffling privacy advocates’ feathers.

For one, Amazon Sidewalk’s network isn’t just your home but your entire neighborhood. It is trying to sell the idea of neighbors with Amazon devices helping neighbors with Amazon devices by providing an Internet connection for those IoT devices in case someone’s Wi-Fi dies. Amazon assures that it only sips Internet connection at 80Kbps and is capped at 500MB per month anyway.

What makes it controversial, however, is the privacy and security implications. Amazon’s whitepaper on Sidewalk makes rather substantial assurances but, in addition to using proprietary technology that no one but Amazon knows about, it is also built upon Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies that have their own security flaws. And as Ars Technica points out, this is Amazon we’re talking about.

Amazon Sidewalk is still an experiment but that experiment is set to go live in the US on June 8. Not only are all Amazon Echo and Ring devices eligible, they are actually enrolled by default. Users will have to explicitly change their settings to opt-out and Amazon is probably hoping that they will also fall back on their default behavior of not changing default settings anyway.


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