As Amazon prepares to debut its Sidewalk Network on Tuesday, privacy and technology experts debate whether users should be concerned that their Alexa devices would be linked to those of their neighbors. The Sidewalk Network will connect qualifying Alexa and Ring devices with others in the area, including strangers’ gadgets.
According to Amazon, the links would increase home-broadband networks and improve connectivity. If one WiFi network slows down, a nearby network may assist in speeding it up. Amazon has stated that data transferred between devices will be encrypted. Some in the IT world reacted negatively to Amazon’s announcement of Sidewalk in 2019, citing concerns about user data and privacy.
Users who do not opt-out before the launch can do so later. When new users set up their Echo or Ring devices, they will be asked to enable Sidewalk. According to several privacy experts, customers who were satisfied with the privacy settings on their Alexa devices would not be concerned about the network. Others expressed concern about the new and largely untested Sidewalk features, which they said would be targeted by hackers as they expanded out across the United States.
Even as their data passes through neighboring networks and devices, device owners connected to the Sidewalk Network won’t be able to control the security settings on those networks or devices, according to Lourdes M. Turrecha, a professor at Santa Clara University and founder of The Rise of Privacy Tech.