NEW YORK – Do you own an Amazon smart device? If so, odds are good that the company is already sharing your internet connection with your neighbors unless you've specifically told it not to.
On Tuesday, the company launched a program that forces users of many Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras to automatically share a small portion of their home wireless bandwidth with neighbors. The only way to stop it is to turn it off yourself.
Amazon says the program, called Amazon Sidewalk, is a way to make sure lights, smart locks and other gadgets outside the home and out of reach of a Wi-Fi connection stay working. But some experts warn that the technology is so new that privacy and security risks remain unclear. And almost no one seems happy that Amazon forced consumers into Amazon Sidewalk or that people may not know they can opt out of it.
Amazon says it sent emails to customers last month and in November that Sidewalk was coming, and you'll also get a notification when you set up gadgets that work with Sidewalk.
To stop this, Echo users can go into the Alexa app, tap “More” in the lower right hand corner, then tap “Settings,” then “Account Settings,” where they'll find a section for Amazon Sidewalk and a button to disable it. In the Ring app, go to “Control Center” and then tap “Sidewalk.”
The idea behind Sidewalk is to integrate residential wireless connections into a “mesh network” that can extend coverage to areas home Wi-Fi can't reach. Amazon's Echo and Ring devices band together to create this network by grabbing a slice of bandwidth from each cooperative home network. That can extend the range of devices designed to work with Sidewalk so they'll stay connected even when away from your home network.