A experimental service by Amazon (AMZN) will automatically turn every Echo speaker, Ring camera and other Amazon device into a shared wireless network. Customers in the U.S. have only one week to opt out so that their internet won’t be shared with neighbors.
The new service, called Amazon Sidewalk, is part of the internet giant’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices. It works by sharing a small slice of your internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have connection (and vice versa) so as to create city-wide “mesh networks” that help keep Amazon devices connected at all times even when home wifi is unavailable. It’s particularly useful to small devices that don’t require a high-bandwidth connection, such as smart locks and pet trackers.
Like most new features rolled out by tech giants these days, Amazon Sidewalk has a default “opt-in” design, meaning that users have to go through a series of steps and manually turn off the sharing function if they don’t want to participate.
Amazon Sidewalk is currently only available in the U.S. and set to roll out on June 8. Amazon customers have until then to opt out in the settings section of the Alexa or Ring apps if they don’t want their data to be shared at all. Here’s how to do it, per Amazon’s website:
Ring customers who own an eligible device can choose to update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences anytime from the Control Center in the Ring app or Ring website. Echo customers who own an eligible device can update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences anytime from Settings in the Alexa app. If you have linked your Ring and Amazon accounts, your Sidewalk preferences on either your Alexa or Ring app will apply to all of your eligible Echo and Ring devices.
If no action is taken, the network will be turned on automatically, turning devices into “Sidewalk Bridges.” Users have the option to turn off the sharing function anytime after it’s activated.
Amazon has explained Sidewalk’s technological and safety details in a white paper. Still, its far-reaching impact has raised concerns among cybersecurity experts.
“In addition to capturing everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their internet activity (as AWS is one of the most dominant web hosting services)…now they are also effectively becoming a global ISP with a flick of a switch, all without even having to lay a single foot of fiber,” Ashkan Soltani, a former chief technology officer of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, told Ars Technica last week.
Correction: This article has been updated to reflect Sidewalk’s policy that Amazon customers can still turn off data-sharing after June 8.