RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Without you authorizing it, Amazon has implemented a new technology for its devices that connects you with your neighbors.
It’s called “Sidewalk” and privacy advocates say its got some serious implications.
The concept may sound innocent at first glance, a bigger Wi-Fi network for you, but it’s really opening the door to all sorts of intrusions.
Cybersecurity expert and author Dr. Eric Cole says it’s all part of the grand plan by Amazon to access more data that it can sell.
Up until Tuesday, when you used Alexa or other Amazon devices, the activity stayed within your home.
Now, Amazon has enabled its devices to share your Wi-Fi with others in your neighborhood in a network it calls “Sidewalk.”
Amazon says it can be used with “Tile” devices for example, to find lost items outside your home or help find missing pets in your neighborhood.
However, experts say this is just the first step
“If you allow this to happen with them accessing your internet, what happens in a couple of months when they start accessing your data and turning this on for your computer?” said Cole.
Having access to a whole neighborhood’s activity is great for data mining.
“If they can go in an see 25 school kids go past your house every day, that’s valuable information for them to sell to storekeepers,” he said.
The only way to keep your privacy is to opt out.
Here’s how to do it:
- Open the devices’ app
- Tap more
- Click “settings,” which brings up account settings
- Find SIDEWALK
- Toggle it off
Cole says although it’s an option, he fears many people won’t bother.
“My prediction, less than 10 percent will opt out,” he said.
Amazon claims “Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security and sidewalk bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to sidewalk.”
But there’s a data loophole there.
“They didn’t say it was encrypted from Amazon seeing it,” said Cole.
Think of all the things you’ve told Alexa over the years. All the data is in there. Privacy experts say you have to perceive the larger picture of this new Amazon network.
“Look at why they’re taking the train down the tracks,” said Cole. “Why are they going here? The grander scheme is to track, monitor and control all of our activity.”
If enough people disable the “Sidewalk” network, it will send a message to Amazon to stop doing this kind of data tracking.
It only takes 30 seconds and keeps the control of your privacy in your hands.