Amazon to opt-in customers with Echo, Ring devices to new ‘Sidewalk’ WiFi-sharing feature

Amazon says users can disable the feature on their device

Amazon customers who own Echo and Ring devices will automatically be opted-in to the new “Sidewalk” feature, which the company says will make the devices work better by sharing some of the users’ Internet connections.

Amazon Sidewalk will take a small slice of a user’s WiFi bandwidth so that devices, even those owned by someone else, can work over a longer distance, the company said in an email to affected customers.

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Amazon detailed the process on a launch page for the feature.

“Amazon Sidewalk creates a low-bandwidth network with the help of Sidewalk Bridge devices, including select Echo and Ring devices,” the company said.

“These Bridge devices share a small portion of your Internet bandwidth which is pooled together to provide these services to you and your neighbors. And when more neighbors participate, the network becomes even stronger,” Amazon continued.

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The new Sidewalk network is not live yet, but the company says it will be rolled out later this year in the U.S.

The feature will be automatically enabled for existing U.S. customers, although Amazon said users can opt-out of the feature by disabling it on their device.

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However, some tech experts expressed concerns over privacy.

“There are real privacy concerns… and there are overblown privacy concerns… but it’s still very much early days,” Chris Davies, executive editor at consumer technology website SlashGear, told KTLA.

Ian Thornton-Trump, the chief information security officer at Cyjax, a company that specializes in threat intelligence, told Forbes the automatic opt-in was "deeply problematic from a privacy perspective."

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"The 'on by default' approach is not consumer-friendly," Thornton-Trump said. "'No one rides on my WiFi for free,' especially a giant corporation with billions of dollars."