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Tech Expert Weighs In On Pros, Cons Of Amazon Sidewalk As Deadline To Opt Out Approaches

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tomorrow is the deadline to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk if you have an Echo or Ring device.

While the program has a lot of benefits for users, it's also raising some security concerns.

Amazon put out the word almost a year ago that this was coming, knowing that people would have questions, and most of us pretty much ignored it. But the deadline is tomorrow, and if you don't opt out, you will be in.

By now, we all know about Echo and Ring devices. Amazon Sidewalk will make your devices and WiFi accessible to your neighbor and vice versa.

"The promise is that your devices are going to connect easier, you're going to have less troubleshooting to do," said John Hiner, CNET's editorial director.

With you and your neighbor on Amazon Sidewalk, a device like an outdoor light or a mailbox monitor will search for the best connection between the two homes.

Hiner: "A little bit of tracking in between both, connecting to both."

Shumway: "Would the nextdoor neighbor then be able to see or hear what's coming out of the devices in my home?"

Hiner: "They wouldn't. If they're connected right, that's not the way it's architected to work."

Hiner says that if your pet gets loose and is wearing a Tile tracker, "and somebody in the neighborhood has an Echo and they came close to their house, then that would be a way to track where they were and find where that pet might be. The Ring or the Echo acts like a mini on-ramp into the network."

And it allows you to search for the Tile on the dog to track them down as long as they pass another Sidewalk active device even blocks or miles away.

However, there are some people who are planning to absolutely opt out.

The reason would be is if you have sensitive information on your network that connects to WiFi, or you have cameras in your home wifi connected for security or to watch your children.

"If there are people who are going to turn this off, they should turn this off as quickly as they can," Hiner said.

John Hiner is CNET's editorial director, a company that monitors all things tech, and he says Amazon Sidewalk has some great qualities for expanding the effectiveness of Echo and Ring devices, but there are security questions when amazon sidewalk starts making your wifi available through those devices.

"They talked about the fact that there's three levels of encryption that it's only using a little bit of your bandwidth that they're protecting that," he said.

But Hiner says while it may expand the effectiveness of your echo or ring, it uses WiFi and bluetooth, and hackers will probably find a way through the door.

Shumway: "What are my risks as an owner?"

Hiner: "If you have data inside your network that you're really concerned about, then you probably want to turn this off as soon as, as soon as possible."

He says hackers could also access any cameras on the system outside or inside your home.

"It's really a case of risk, you're managing your risk," Hiner said.

If it's too much risk, Hiner says you must take action.

"All the devices are defaulting to on so it's on unless you turn it off," he added.

And you can turn it off easily by going to the settings in your Alexa app and you will see Alexa sidewalk and you simply turn it off.

But if you don't do it by tomorrow night, you will automatically be a part of Amazon Sidewalk. The app also gives you the choice to opt in later.

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