You’ve seen the funny videos of thieves who try to steal packages from people’s front porches only to have justice immediately happen to them. Maybe they slip and fall. Maybe they mistake a box full of trash as a package to steal, and the thief unintentionally saves the homeowner the trash dumping fees (I particularly liked that one).
Of course, a few people have been concerned about these cameras on doors for the potential security concerns, but what if those people weren’t just paranoid? What if those people were, actually, right?
Well, we don’t have to wonder because the shopping giant Amazon announced that it will connect millions of cameras to a network. That’s right, Amazon is set to be able to spy on potentially hundreds of millions of Americans, and many of us bought into it (hat tip to here for the lead). Alex Horn writes in a piece for The Guardian,
Amazon customers have one week to opt out of a plan that would turn every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the US into a shared wireless network, as part of the company’s plan to fix connection problems for its smart home devices.
The proposal, called Amazon Sidewalk, involves the company’s devices being used as a springboard to build city-wide “mesh networks” that help simplify the process of setting up new devices, keep them online even if they’re out of range of home wifi, and extend the range of tracking devices such as those made by Tile.
But Sidewalk has come under fire for the apparent lack of transparency with which Amazon has rolled out the feature, as well as the limited time available for users to complete the tricky process required to opt out. Other critics have expressed concerns that failing to turn the setting off could leave customers in breach of their internet service provider’s terms and conditions.
“Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better,” the company said in a Q&A document for users. “In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security and lighting and diagnostics for appliances and tools.”
The feature works by creating a low-bandwidth network using smart home devices such as Amazon Echoes and Ring security cameras.
So, basically, Amazon Echos and Rings can connect to each other and communicate with Amazon if there is another Amazon Echo or Ring nearby, even if the first one doesn’t have an internet connection. And how many Echos or Rings are already in American households and on American front doors? Well, all of those package thief payback videos came from some place.
To make the situation worse, Amazon only gives its American customers until June 8, 2021 (four days from the time of this writing) if they want to opt-out of the Amazon Sidewalk network.
Because that’s not fishy with them trying to fly it in under the radar, is it?
To be fair, Apple had also set up networks among their customers for some things, but it doesn’t appear to have been nearly as invasive as Amazon having cameras on and in millions of American homes.
Remember, though, that even if Amazon has altruistic motives for doing this (which, let’s be honest, is doubtful), any system like this will eventually be hacked, and these Amazon customers will be spied on. This is just one more step in taking away Americans’ privacy completely.