Amazon Sidewalk Privacy Concerns

June 17, 2021 2 min read

Amazon Sidewalk Privacy Concerns

Late last year, Amazon announced intentions to launch Amazon Sidewalk, a new IoT wireless service. Like other new technologies, it is being marketed with appealing use cases, But as with any new technology, there are drawbacks - in this case, personal privacy and security of users.

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

In theory, Sidewalk is a long-range (up to half-mile) 900MHz wireless service that crowdsources a tiny portion of participating user's bandwidth to increase overall connection. 

The wireless service, according to Amazon, will make it easier to set up new devices, increase the range of low-bandwidth Bluetooth devices, and even keep devices connected even when they are out of range of their home network.

How does it work?

According to the business, Sidewalk Gateways connect with Sidewalk Endpoints, which are low-bandwidth Amazon mobile devices such as Amazon Tile trackers, Amazon Echo, Amazon Fire, Amazon Dot, etc.

The process connects the owners Amazon IOT connected devices to the ones in the area to create a "neighborhood grid" of Amazon IOT devices. Essentially creating its own network independent of anyone's wireless internet.

Security and Privacy risks

In Amazon creating this grid, it essentially means that they have access to everyones internet and by extension what is connected to it.

At first, the concept of compromising my security and privacy to provide a more extensive network for other users' devices didn't appeal to me. According to Amazon they have made the following steps to ensure customer privacy:

  • To keep devices safe, Amazon Sidewalk employs three layers of encryption. An application layer, a network layer, and a flex message layer are the three layers. This ensures that before using the bridge, both the endpoint and the bridge have been confirmed.
  • Customers who use other people's wireless services don't have access to their gadgets.
  • Every 24 hours, all routing information for functioning network components is cleared without user intervention. On Amazon's end, the data is automatically deleted.

Amazon rolled this process out very quietly and when people find out they are alarmed that these devices are doing this in the background.

There is an "opt-out" feature, but at present "Amazon Sidewalk" is turned on on all Amazon IOT devices. 

This process is done in the App for your devices, such as "Amazon Alexa", under "settings" then "account settings" and then toggle "Amazon Sidewalk."

The issue is that, if that they can turn this on that discretely, what means they won't do that again?

To protect your other Internet Connected Devices, store them in Faraday Sleeves which will block Amazon from connecting to their wireless, wifi, bluetooth, gps, or cellular signals.

Brandon Lasko
Brandon Lasko

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