By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

This week’s Tech Wednesday is from a listener question.

The question?  What is “Amazon Sidewalk” and “Amazon Key”?

Earlier when these technologies were first being introduced we talked about them a little.  Now that they are here we can look and see how these might be affecting your privacy.

Amazon Sidewalk

Amazon Sidewalk is a low-bandwidth long-range wireless communication protocol developed by Amazon.  It uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for short distance communication, and 900 MHz LoRa and other frequencies for longer distances.  (Wikipedia)

Basically, devices that are compatible with this system can use a small amount of bandwidth available from Amazon Echo devices, Ring devices and other compatible systems.   Some of the devices that can use this are Tile (a way to find things like lost keys or a wallet) and a dog collar called Fetch.  If you drop your keys with a Tile or your dog runs off and is wearing a Fetch collar you can find them using this system.  The device must be compatible with Sidewalk and users can’t use other user’s bandwidth for things like Internet access.

A number of tech experts voiced a security concern that one doesn’t opt into this.  It’s automatically switched on if you have a relevant Echo or Ring device.  You do have the ability to turn it off in the app; however, most people don’t know that it even exists.

After reviewing the details to date I’m not too worried about security here.  Time will tell if the hackers can get into your network but it does appear that security is being taken seriously by Amazon concerning this product.

Amazon Key

Amazon Key is an in-home and in-car delivery service that allows authorized shippers to gain access to an Amazon Prime customer’s home, post office box, or car trunk during specified times. The purpose of Amazon Key is to prevent packages from being stolen. (Tech Target)

The question on this product is “How do you feel about Amazon having a key to your house?”.  With porch pirates becoming a bigger problem with each passing year, there is some sense in the idea of being able to secure your packages.

The system will work with Amazon Key enabled garage door openers, smart locks, and even some cars to open the trunk.   Unlike Sidewalk, you do have to sign up and expressly authorize this type of access for your home.  Even if you have a device compatible with Amazon Key there are still a number of steps before Amazon would have access.

Amazon Key for Business

A system that uses similar technology to Amazon Key is a business version designed for places like large apartment complexes.   This system allows the Amazon delivery person to enter a lobby or mailroom without being buzzed in.  This program is entered into with the property owners.  While it currently does allow Amazon access to the common area of the building, it doesn’t allow access to individual apartments.

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

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Got a technology question or comment for Bill? Follow him on Twitter @sikkensw