Internet Network

5 things to know about the controversial feature

You’re now a little closer to your neighbors – and you may not even know it.

Starting Tuesday, Amazon automatically enrolled eligible Echo and other devices into a feature called Sidewalk. It enables the company to share small snippets of your Internet connection with those nearby, creating what Amazon calls a “low-bandwidth network” that can keep devices connected even if you lose Wi-Fi in your home.

Ring security cameras are already imbued with Sidewalk, and older devices for Tile – which offers Bluetooth trackers for your wallet and keys – went live on Tuesday, with its newer offerings joining on June 14.

Amazon, of course, touts it all as a positive. It will supposedly keep smartlights and locks humming even if they dip out of your network’s range. It could allow your security cameras to detect motion without Wi-Fi, and the pinging, interconnected devices in your neighborhood could help you locate lost items, the company claims.

Privacy advocates take a different view.

Multiple cybersecurity officials told St. Louis television station KSDK this week that Sidewalk could hypothetically make your Wi-Fi more susceptible to hackers. And the Internet has been awash in articles on how users can opt-out of the feature altogether (we’ll get to that in a second).

Here are a few things to know.

Does this affect me?

Only if you’re one of the millions and millions of people who own an Amazon-brand smart speaker in the United States. So yeah: probably.