Amazon Sidewalk: Should you turn it off?
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Amazon Sidewalk: Should you turn it off?

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Speaker 1: Did you know that your echo and ring devices can actually help other people's devices connect to the cloud. It's called Amazon sidewalk. It's live right now and it's on by default. So here's everything you really ought know about it. In this video. I'm gonna talk about the privacy security concerns currently surrounding Amazon sidewalk, as well as the question of how much of your home's bandwidth it lets other devices use up. But first let's go over the basics of [00:00:30] what sidewalk is and how exactly it works Speaker 1: With Amazon sidewalk. Most echo, smart speakers and select ring, smart lights are designated as sidewalk walk bridges. That means that they're able to receive incoming Bluetooth Le signals from devices that are up to 100 meters away, including other people's devices. Some sidewalk bridges, namely the echo show 10, the ring floodlight cam and the wired version of the ring. Spotlight cam feature built in 900 megahertz LoRa radios. [00:01:00] And those can accept sidewalk signals from devices up to half a mile away, either way. When those sidewalk bridges receive a signal from someone's sidewalk device, they'll use a tiny bit of your home. Network's bandwidth to pass that signal up to Amazon, where it gets routed to the appropriate server. Now there's a lot to unpack there. So let's start with the why of it. All Amazon says the whole point of Amazon sidewalk is to help everybody's devices stay better connected, not just in your home, but throughout the entire neighborhood. Speaker 1: For instance, if you've got some smart lights outside of your home, [00:01:30] and sometimes they drop off of your wifi network, then a sidewalk connection with your neighbor's echo speaker could serve as a backup and keep those lights online. Sidewalk also works with tile trackers. So it could help you find things that are lost outside of your home. If you put a tile tracker on your dog's collar, for example, and then your dog hops, the fence sidewalk could send you a notification with her approximate location. As soon as she wanders near a home that uses sidewalk enabled echo or ring devices, sidewalk sounds a little scary, uh, especially the part about other people's [00:02:00] devices using your home network's bandwidth to connect to the cloud. But Amazon has done a pretty good job of laying out some things that should help keep it safe and secure. First off, nobody actually gets to see your home network and sidewalk doesn't bring any devices from outside your home, onto your home network to share your wifi. Speaker 1: What it's doing is acting like an anonymous relay. These devices connect with your bridges, and then those bridges pass the devices up to the cloud. You can't see those devices and those devices can't see your home network. Amazon also uses three layers of encryption [00:02:30] for those sidewalk signals, which is a very high standard. And not even Amazon can look at that data. All Amazon can see is the routing information that tells it where that data needs to go. On top of that, Amazon adds that it deletes the data used to route sidewalk of transmissions every 24 hours, and that it uses rolling IDs to prevent those transmissions from being tied to any specific user. For me, the first real problem with sidewalk is that it's on by default. So you'll need to turn it off. If you don't wanna be a part of it, you can do that by [00:03:00] going into the account setting section of your Alexa app, selecting Amazon sidewalk, and then toggling that slider to the off position when you do. Speaker 1: So you'll see a second slider below it for a feature called community finding that's the feature that shares your home's approximate location with other people when they lose a tile tracker near your address, that part of the sidewalk is off by default. So you'll need to turn that on to opt in. If you do turn community finding on then other people could receive a notification with your home's approximate location. If they lose something like a tile [00:03:30] tracker near your home. Now that won't be your exact dress in that notification. It'll just be the approximate area around your home, or maybe a nearby I, if you're not comfortable with that, don't turn that feature on. As for that main sidewalk toggle that's on by default, if you leave it on then other people's devices could connect to the cloud through your echo speakers and ring devices. Speaker 1: But those transmissions will be things like motion alerts and on off commands for lights that use very little data that might sound like a lot, but consider at the average [00:04:00] home's internet use spiked to about 400 gigabytes each month in 2020. And that's the peak of 2020 that's 400,000 megabytes, 500 megabytes is 0.125% of that figure. Let's put that another way and say that the $50 worth of quarters appearing here represents those 400 gigabytes of data that the average home used last year at max Amazon sidewalk transmissions would use about six sense of data each month. But what if your internet plan comes with a data [00:04:30] cap and you get charged a fee, if you break it in a given month, lots of providers have one, uh, but the major ones like Comcast Xfinity at and T Cox communications, they'll typically give you at least one terabyte of data per month. That's 1 million megabytes. So I don't think that you should be too concerned about that 500 megabytes of sidewalk usage. On the other hand, some rural providers like ViaSat, satellite, internet service and rise, broadbands fixed wireless service. They have data caps that are a lot tighter. So if you've got a provider like that, you probably want to consider turning [00:05:00] sidewalk off to avoid being pushed past that cap. Speaker 1: If you have outdoor smart lights, keeping your home and yard li at night, or if you use tile trackers, then Amazon sidewalk might offer your smart home, some genuine utility in a case like that, I don't think there's anything wrong with giving it a shot that said I still have a lot of questions about Amazon sidewalk and the ways that Amazon itself might have eventually put sidewalk to use. Remember, this is an anonymous and untrackable neighborhood wide network. That's built on the bandwidth of private homes, using [00:05:30] devices that were never sold with that use case in mind with millions of those echo and ring devices already installed in people's homes. And with sidewalk turned on by default at launch, Amazon basically gave itself a free private pipeline that things can use to connect to Amazon servers from millions of neighborhoods across the country. So what's Amazon's end game here. Speaker 1: An Amazon spokesperson tells me that the company's plans for sidewalk are focused on keeping devices connected and on building new use cases for the network, including work with the red cross and with care band, a company [00:06:00] that sells a wearable tracker for dementia patients, but the company isn't sharing any details about how Amazon itself might ultimately make use of that private pipeline. It only reiterates that data sent over sidewalk is invisible to Amazon and that it deletes the information used to route that data every four hours, that's good on the privacy front, but I'd still like to see more transparency from Amazon and more of a reassurance that the only things connecting to Amazon servers through your sidewalk, bridges will be publicly disclosed sidewalk devices, [00:06:30] but sidewalk. Wasn't part of the pitch. When Amazon sold millions of echo and ring devices, it relies on bandwidth that Amazon doesn't own pay for. And Amazon didn't ask your permission to turn it on. I really wouldn't blame anybody for turning it back off. Thanks for watching. If you found this video informative, please leave a like and subscribe to see more or leave a comment, letting us know if you plan to use sidewalk in your home.

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