Amazon's Idea For A Mesh Network Is Cool; Its Method Of Rolling It Out Is Not

from the c'mon-guys dept

Over the weekend there was a bit of a reasonable fuss raised after Ars Technica noted that all of the various Amazon connected devices (including Alexa, Echo, Ring, etc.) would become part of a mesh network called Amazon Sidewalk, in which the devices would be sharing a tiny tiny bit of bandwidth across the network of devices. The idea behind the mesh network is kind of cool, and there are some clear benefits to using it.

But, of course, this is Amazon we’re talking about — a giant company, and the method of rolling this out seems to have caught a ton of people by surprise: namely opting everyone into the program with a short timeline to opt-out. That seems less than ideal. Lots of privacy folks are concerned, in general, with two aspects of this: the fact that people may be suddenly sharing data with their neighbors without necessarily realizing it, and the tie-in to Amazon, which is (again) a large company that tends to collect quite a bit of data on people. To its credit, Amazon released a pretty comprehensive whitepaper exploring the privacy and security protections they’ve built in to Sidewalk, and my guess is that for many consumers the benefits of easier setup and better connectivity via Sidewalk will seem worth it to them.

The real issue, then, is forcing everyone into the network. Obviously, it’s no surprise why this was done. A mesh network really only works if you have enough nodes on the network to make it useful. So it makes sense that Amazon would want as many of the devices to be on the network on day one as possible. However, given the company and the public scrutiny it has received of late, it seems like it should have anticipated these concerns a lot more, pushed for an opt-in setup (perhaps with incentives), rather than jumping to the “hey, we’re adding this automatically” approach.

While it’s possible that Amazon is betting that the concerns over this will blow over, and having so many nodes on the network will make it worthwhile to take the short-term heat, it still surprises me that the big internet companies don’t take more steps to alleviate these kinds of concerns up front, including taking a more cautious approach. But, perhaps that’s why I don’t run a giant internet company.

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Companies: amazon

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Comments on “Amazon's Idea For A Mesh Network Is Cool; Its Method Of Rolling It Out Is Not”

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19 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

They mainly care about you reselling, if you had an open wifi (which hey all of their boxes ship with for comcast customers) they aren’t going to care or come looking to make sure.

Its mostly leagalese to cover ones behind.

I pay for the service, I can do what I’d like with the service except profit.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I look forward to Amazon getting subpoenas from Copyright Trolls to unmask the users who accessed the mesh & the user providing it so they can be threatened with a crime for allowing their internet to be used.

One also wonders how any consumer protection things might like to fine the hell out of Amazon.
If you dunno you were opted in & the mesh manages to push you over your bandwidth cap and you incurr fees… who’s fault?

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think it gets even better than that….

"Your Honor, sir, my wi-fi connection to the internet is locked down the way a bunch of websites tell me I should do it, so it should be secure against intrusion. At least, that’s what they tell me on the "techie" sites. But recently Amazon opted me into a mesh network, and I don’t know how anyone could’ve accessed my router, and thus my internet connection, except via that new mesh thingie. That means it could’ve been any one of my 4 dozen neighbors, and I certainly don’t have the knowledge to figure out who it might’ve been, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t me who downloaded that porn!"

Bloof (profile) says:

Like Stadia, it’s a great idea in theory, but the internet infrastructure is not up to it in the US, a mess of slow connections and capped broadband whose users won’t be happy to find themselves exceeding because of a service they never agreed to.

Outside of the US, opt out is something that probably won’t fly for them legally in many major markets so it won’t be much use there either.

Anonymous Coward says:

How it works

To clarify:

It is not a real mesh network that sends data from node to node until it reaches its destination.

Instead, it’s a WIFI access point that is restricted to Amazon devices and third party devices that Amazon deems fit (i.e. paid the annual fee – to Amazon).

All data is encrypted so there is no worry that a neighour can sully your reputation. (That’s how it provides ‘privacy’ for the buyer of your data.)

All data is sent to Amazon servers, so if your Ring is connected to it, you can retrieve your doorbell data from Amazon.

Expect that Amazon devices, doorbells, pet-trackers, will connect automatically, so setup is hassle-free. Did I mention you have to ask Amazon for your data?

Cheers.

Anonymous Coward says:

How it works

To clarify:

It is not a real mesh network that sends data from node to node until it reaches its destination.

Instead, it’s a WIFI access point that is restricted to Amazon devices and third party devices that Amazon deems fit (i.e. paid the annual fee – to Amazon).

All data is encrypted so there is no worry that a neighour can sully your reputation. (That’s how it provides ‘privacy’ for the buyer of your data.)

All data is sent to Amazon servers, so if your Ring is connected to it, you can retrieve your doorbell data from Amazon.

Expect that Amazon devices, doorbells, pet-trackers, will connect automatically, so setup is hassle-free. Did I mention you have to ask Amazon for your data?

Cheers.

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