Amazon's Sidewalk mesh network launches, prompting privacy concerns

Amazon has launched a new technology that the company says will enhance the performance of some of its internet-connected devices. But Amazon Sidewalk also uses the Wi-Fi within millions of American homes, and that has some privacy advocates concerned. CBS News' Nichelle Medina has the details.

Video Transcript

- Amazon is launching new technology that the company hopes will enhance the performance of some of its devices. The service, known as Amazon Sidewalk, is already raising concerns with privacy advocates. CBS's Nichelle Medina has more.

- Alexa.

NICHELLE MEDINA: If you own certain Alexa-enabled Echo devices or some Ring camera models, Amazon will soon be able to use part of your home's Wi-Fi to create a new network called Amazon Sidewalk.

- Amazon Sidewalk is an ad hoc mesh network that takes advantage of your Amazon smart devices.

NICHELLE MEDINA: CBS News tech reporter, Dan Patterson, says the new service takes a small sliver of Wi-Fi at homes with certain Amazon products to create a shared network within neighborhoods. The so-called Sidewalk Bridge allows devices with spotty Wi-Fi to stay connected. The wireless network would also work with tile trackers, which can be used to locate lost items like keys or pets.

Amazon says Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security, and Sidewalk Bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk.

JON CALLAS: The amount of network that they say that they're going to be using is both very low bandwidth and relatively small.

NICHELLE MEDINA: Jon Callas from the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the network won't affect Wi-Fi speeds, but he has concerns because users are automatically enrolled. Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, has the same concerns.

ASHKAN SOLTANI: People pay a service fee to their cable provider or their cell phone provider for these services, right? So for Amazon to help themselves to that bandwidth it's pretty questionable, I think.

NICHELLE MEDINA: People who want to opt out of the shared network can go into the Ring or Amazon app and turn it off. Nichelle Medina, CBS News, Los Angeles.