Critics say Amazon Sidewalk program is ‘cynical’, vulnerable to hackers

Starting Tuesday, people with certain smart devices powered by Amazon will be enrolled in the online retail giant’s new Sidewalk program – unless they proactively opt out.

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There are concerns among some because it will allow Amazon to borrow a portion of users’ bandwidth from other people’s devices.

For example, if you have a Ring camera on your door or use Alexa in your home, the company can siphon bandwidth from nearby smart devices.

QOMPLX CEO Jason Crabtree is among those calling Amazon out.

"It is a cynical and sinister use of user choice," said Crabtree.

He also fears this shared network will be a juicy target for hackers.

"These are lots and lots of access points on people’s private networks and I don’t think that attackers are going to fail to recognize that," he said.

A prosecutor in Connecticut has been working to inform residents, and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, who is suing Amazon for unrelated sales tactics, provided FOX 5 with a statement regarding the Sidewalk program:

"We still need to learn a great deal more about how Amazon Sidewalk uses consumers’ own internet bandwidth, how secure it is, and how the company plans to use Sidewalk now and in the future. Since many Amazon customers will be automatically opted in to Sidewalk, it’s essential that consumers understand their options and the impacts of Sidewalk to their privacy, and make informed decisions for themselves about if they want to participate in it. I encourage consumers to learn about the Sidewalk network and determine if they want to opt out or not. And I encourage Amazon to be transparent and provide details about this network to consumers."

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The Amazon Sidewalk network will connect an owner’s Alexa and Ring devices to others nearby.

Amazon says it will strengthen home-broadband networks and promises the data shared will be encrypted. There’s also an option for a feature called Community Finding that lets you access information from those around you when something is missing, like say your pet who is wearing a smart tag on its collar.

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The company says it sent out email notices beginning in November. 

Amazon Sidewalk will become active June 8 but users can opt out or opt back in at any time through their mobile apps. 

Crabtree says it’s important to understand that if you want to opt out, any user associated with your account needs to opt out as well.