Amazon Echo and Ring devices will be enabling their “Sidewalk” feature on multiple devices and you should at least know what that means. The company sent out emails to owners of the devices, but many people report them being filtered spam or simply ignored and Sidewalk has some concerns given Amazon’s security concerns in some devices in the recent past.
Sidewalk is a new feature that allows Amazon devices to send a small amount of data from their home Wi-Fi to other nearby Amazon devices in the event the internet was to fail at that residence. The data used is quite small and will likely never affect data caps on cable internet plans, but the main concern is security. One of the worst network security concepts a person can make is allowing unknown devices on their internal network and this feature allows Amazon to do just that. On top of that, Amazon has not released any details about the firewalls or security protocols this new feature will be using to protect the end users. Our faith in Amazon to appropriately handle security is small due to how poorly they handled recent open access to their Ring Doorbells, and yes, those same Ring Doorbells are now sharing your Wi-Fi.
There are perks to this feature however, Ring devices are security devices that require internet to function. This means that the loss of internet or power will likely render those devices ineffective and crime does not stop when the lights go out. Sidewalk would allow Ring devices to pull the required data off a nearby user to keep itself recording video and the battery would keep the device running for at least some time. This approach will likely prevent or catch a crime in action when it would have been otherwise missed. Even the best home networks still have outages and keeping the security running may be worth it to may people. Echo devices on the other hand, are also included in this feature, but are likely not a critical safety feature in a home.
The feature can be turned off in the app for the device, but it will be set to “on” after the update. Overall, the core concept of this feature is good, but the way Amazon is handling it and the lack of security information makes me suggest turning it off for now. Once the company has released more information, we may even recommend this feature to help your neighbors who are also using these devices.