In a few days, Amazon will begin enrolling Echo devices, Ring Floodlights, and Spotlight Cams into its Amazon Sidewalk network, a plan to create a huge shared network that will allow other Amazon devices that are experiencing network downtime to automatically connect to a nearby device to get a connection.
Here’s how Amazon describes Sidewalk:
“Sidewalk can also extend the working range for your Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights, pet locators, or smart locks, so they can stay connected and continue to work over longer distances. Amazon does not charge any fees to join Sidewalk.”
Your contribution to Sidewalk is a small portion of your internet bandwidth — 80Kbps, capped to a maximum of 500MB a month.
In return, you get access to Sidewalk, and if your internet goes down, or you have a device that’s in a location where it has a poor connection, your devices get to tap into that shared bandwidth in order that your devices can continue to send you notifications.
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“By sharing a small portion of their home network bandwidth, neighbors give a little—but get a lot in return,” is how Amazon puts it in its privacy and security whitepaper.
I’ve come across a lot of commentary related to Amazon Sidewalk. Some sensible, some losing their minds over it.
And privacy and security concerns are at the top of people’s worries.
Would I allow Amazon Sidewalk to share my network connection?
Having read Amazon’s privacy and security whitepaper, and looking at Amazon’s track record over the years, I’d have no problems using Amazon Sidewalk. Amazon has put a great deal of effort and engineering into this, and it’s a clever solution to a problem that affects more and more people who have an ever-expanding ecosystem of IoT hardware in their homes.
If you’re concerned about Amazon’s privacy and security credentials, then I’d question why you have Amazon hardware connected to your network in the first place. I mean, these devices have deep hooks into your life, home, and surroundings, and this hardware is bristling with microphones and cameras that are always ready to start listening and watching.
Worrying that someone could do something nefarious with that 80Kbps of bandwidth that you’re making available should be the least of your worries.
Also, given the state of home network hardware and how poorly they are patched for knows security issues, that will offer a far bigger and better attack surface than Sidewalk ever will. And Amazon is pretty much on the ball when it comes to patching its hardware, so if bugs do surface — more of a when than an if — patches will be forthcoming and installed in the background.
That’s a lot more than your typical home router sees.
Amazon Sidewalk is a superb idea.