Amazon last week opened Sidewalk protocol to third party developers. Sidewalk is a large mesh network that uses people’s internet connections throughout the US. Sidewalk is a service that requires trust. Most of the devices it hosts are Amazon products. Sidewalk’s privacy protections will soon be put to the test on a larger scale.
There is no way to be 100% private or secure with connected devices. Sidewalk has so far avoided major privacy disasters, despite initial concerns. Here’s how Sidewalk works and the potential risks it may pose for you as a user. We also know what Amazon plans to do to diffuse them.
Are Amazon Sidewalk’s privacy policies any good?
Sidewalk feels like it should cause privacy problems. Sidewalk uses your Amazon Echo and Ring cameras to siphon some of your internet bandwidth. This is then pooled together to form a mesh network. Sidewalk bridges are more effective if there are many of them in your area.
This is why you would want it. This is a way to make sure your smart devices are working even when there is no Wi-Fi connection. Imagine that you place a Ring floodlight at your garage door. This is way beyond your router’s range. Sidewalk could be used to connect the device. Sidewalk can also be used to locate and track Bluetooth items. Sidewalk compatibility was not available before Tile trackers were limited to the Bluetooth range of your phone. This is fine if your keys are lost at home, but not so helpful if they are stolen on the streets. Certain Tile trackers can now tap into Sidewalk to notify owners about their last known location, even if they’re miles away.
Are your devices connected to and transmitting data over a network that is made up of bandwidth borrowed from other people? Sounds fishy. Experts say they don’t worry about Amazon’s Sidewalk privacy or security protocols. They include three layers encryption to protect data. You can find out more in this whitepaper.
“Everybody who’s looked at the [Sidewalk privacy] protocol has said it’s a good protocol.” “There are no major flaws.”
Hence, the concern.
Amazon Sidewalk was silently announced in 2019, but a privacy controversy began before its launch in June 2021. The main issue was that Sidewalk was an option-out service. Sidewalk was activated automatically via an over-the air update if you owned an Echo or Ring capable of acting as a bridge. Amazon claimed it sent an email to users describing how to opt-out, but we all haven’t read every ecommerce email in our inbox. The setting was difficult to find in Alexa’s app, which didn’t help. A better solution for security and privacy would have been to allow the service to opt in. Sidewalk was not able to withstand the backlash and made a poor first impression.
Amazon has made it clear that Sidewalk will be enabled on your first device. However, it isn’t fully opt-in. Amazon’s whitepaper also states that Sidewalk will not be enabled by default if you don’t complete setup unless you have previously opted in.
Sidewalk was also suspected of stealing internet bandwidth. Sidewalk was feared to cause users higher internet bills than they expected and slow speeds without their consent. Sidewalk can “borrow” bandwidth but it has a limit of 500MB per year. If you have broadband, this shouldn’t be a problem. It is unlikely that your service will slow down at that level.
What does a third-party developer have to do about anything?
We are still waiting for key information on Sidewalk. Apple, Google and other tech giants require developers to meet certain criteria before they can use their APIs. Sidewalk doesn’t provide any details about its certification process or how it intends to ensure that developers adhere to Sidewalk’s privacy policies. Amazon has not yet provided details about its plans for dealing with bad actors. We don’t yet know how fast Amazon will respond to threats reported or how quickly it will fix bugs and other vulnerabilities. We won’t be able to know the outcome of these incidents until they happen.
“I’m certain there will be at least one embarrassing flaw in the system, because everyone has at least one embarrassing flaw.”
“Developers who wish to participate in Amazon Sidewalk must go through the Works with Amazon Sidewalk Qualification program (WWAS),” Jill Tornifoglio, an Amazon spokesperson, tells . This WWAS program will test third-party designs for compliance with Sidewalk protocol requirements, such as size, timing, packet structure and size. Tornifoglio states that after the registration process, we also verify that devices are connected to the Sidewalk network.
Tornifoglio clarified that Sidewalk uses multiple layers of encryption and that those standards will apply to third-party apps. To prevent unauthorized access, third parties can also issue unique identities that link devices and their apps.
“We believe technology should be used for good. However, we recognize that bad actors can misuse many types of technology. Tornifoglio states that any misuse of technology is unacceptable and will result in termination of our service. He also said that Amazon has the ability to remove malicious and bad actors from the network.
Do I need to be concerned?
It all boils down to your comfort level with uncertainty. There aren’t any major reasons to be concerned about Amazon’s trustworthiness. This is fair, considering that Amazon botched the way it handled Alexa voice recordings. It also has a poor record in regards to Ring cameras or surveillance. However, it should also be noted that Amazon’s AWS cloud services are Excellent security measures.
Opting out is the best way to protect your privacy. How to opt out. If you already use Amazon Echo or Ring and like Sidewalk, you can continue to participate until you are given an explanation not to.
Callas says, “I wouldn’t sweat the details.” “All these voice things, Echo, I don’t use, but I don’t feel like people who do are somehow putting themselves at risk.”