Would you give your Wi-fi key to your neighbor? Amazon doesn’t care what you answer to this question, because it will force you to share a connection with everyone around you. And no, you are not going to earn a euro with it.
If you use Alexa, Echo, or any other Amazon device, you only have 10 days to opt out of an experiment that leaves your privacy and personal safety up in the air. On June 8, the commerce, web hosting and entertainment giant will automatically enroll devices in Amazon Sidewalk. The new wireless mesh service will share a small portion of your internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who do not have connectivity and it will help your bandwidth when you have no connection.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon REUTERS / Clodagh Kilcoyne
Default, Amazon devices, including Alexa, Echo, Ring, security cameras, exterior lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers, will enroll in the system. And since only a small fraction of people take the time to change the default settings, that means millions of people will be co-opted into the show, whether they know anything about it or not. The Amazon website linked above says that Sidewalk “Currently only available in the United States.”
Amazon has released a report detailing the technical fundamentals and terms of service that it says, they will protect the privacy and security of this bold initiative. To be fair, the document is pretty comprehensive, and so far no one has pointed to specific flaws that undermine the encryption or other safeguards that are being put in place. But there are enough theoretical risks to make users pause.
Wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have a history of insecurity. Remember WEP, the encryption scheme that protected Wi-Fi traffic from being monitored by nearby parties? It was used widely for four years before researchers exposed flaws that made decrypting data relatively easy for attackers. WPA, the technology that replaced WEP, is much more robust, but it also has a checkered history.
Bluetooth technology has also had its share of similar vulnerabilities over the years, either in the Bluetooth standard or in the way it is implemented in various products.
If industry standard wireless technologies have such a poor track record, Why should we believe that a wireless scheme that Amazon proposes will have a better one?
Alexa knows your life, do you want to share it with hackers?
Next, consider the wealth of intimate details that Amazon devices know about. Come who is knocking at our doors and, in some homes, they peek into our living rooms. They listen to the conversations we have with our friends and family. They control the locks and other security systems in our house.
Extending the reach of all this encrypted data to the sidewalk and the living rooms of neighbors requires a level of trust that is not justified for a technology that has never been widely tested.
By last, Let’s not forget who is providing this new way of sharing and sharing alike. As independent privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani says in a statement given to Ars Technica, “In addition to capturing everyone’s shopping habits (from amazon.com) and their Internet activity (as Amazon Web Services is one of the services mainstream web hosts) … now they are also effectively becoming a global ISP at the flick of a switch, all without even having to put in a single meter of fiber. ”
That is, another round Amazon business based on cannibalizing what already exists. How long are we going to continue allowing the company founded by Jeff Bezos to enter a china shop like an elephant?
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