Do you own an Amazon smart device? If so, odds are good that the company is already sharing your internet connection with your neighbors unless you’ve specifically told it not to.
On Tuesday, the company launched a program that forces users of many Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras to automatically share a small portion of their home wireless bandwidth with neighbors. The only way to stop it is to turn it off yourself.
Amazon says the program, called Amazon Sidewalk, is a way to make sure lights, smart locks and other gadgets outside the home and out of reach of a Wi-Fi connection stay working.
But some experts warn that the technology is so new that privacy and security risks remain unclear. And almost no one seems happy that Amazon forced consumers into Amazon Sidewalk — or that many people may not know they can opt out of it.
DID AMAZON TELL CUSTOMERS THIS WAS HAPPENING?
Amazon says it sent emails to customers last month and in November that Sidewalk was coming. The company says you’ll also get a notification when you set up gadgets that work with Sidewalk.
HOW CAN I STOP THIS?
Once you know about it, it’s relatively straightforward, if not exactly simple, to opt out of Sidewalk. Echo users can go into the Alexa app, tap “More” in the lower right hand corner, then tap “Settings,” then “Account Settings,” where they’ll find a section for Amazon Sidewalk and a button to disable it. In the Ring app, go to “Control Center” and then tap “Sidewalk.”
WHY IS AMAZON DOING THIS?
The idea behind Sidewalk is to integrate residential wireless connections into a “mesh network” that can extend coverage to areas home Wi-Fi can’t reach. Amazon’s Echo and Ring devices band together to create a this network by grabbing a slice of bandwidth from each cooperative home network. That can extend the range of devices designed to work with Sidewalk so they’ll stay connected even when away from your home network.
One example of such a device is Tile, a tracking device that can be placed on keys or a dog’s collar. If your dog goes missing in a neighborhood where Sidewalk is working, it might turn up quickly via Tile.
Other products that work with Sidewalk include smart locks that can be controlled by phone and wearable devices that can track people with dementia who may wander. Amazon expects additional devices, including outdoor lights and motion detectors, will work with Sidewalk before long.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Amazon is tapping into a variety of radio technologies, including one called LoRa for its long range and better known for industrial and business applications such as keeping track of cattle roaming through pasturelands.
“The goal here is not to create coverage for a single home,” said Marc Pegulu of chipmaker Semtech, which is partnering with Amazon on the technology. “It’s kind of a shared network, a community shared network.”
Among other things, devices connected to the shared network can supposedly search for the best signal in a way that can preserve their battery life.
Thomas Clausen, a computer science professor at France’s École Polytechnique, says that the network Amazon is creating could be a good thing provided that it’s open and accessible, because it would make it easier and cheaper to use internet-connected devices and sensors and spark new innovations.
“But of course, when a behemoth like Amazon, or Apple or Google or Microsoft, create a platform, they also can end up controlling the platform and that can stifle innovation,” he says.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Hackers could potentially infiltrate home networks via Sidewalk, said Eric Null, a policy manager at digital rights group Access Now. If that happens, Null said hackers could observe everything you do, take over your devices or access your files to steal information.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone’s network gets hacked and data gets breached,” said Null.
William Tong, Connecticut’s attorney general, warned consumers this week that the program was “uncharted territory” and that people should opt-out of Sidewalk unless they are sure their privacy and security will be protected.
“Wireless networks are already notoriously vulnerable to hacks and breaches,” Tong wrote in a statement. “Families need better information and more time before giving away a portion of their bandwidth to this new system.”
WHAT DOES AMAZON SAY?
When asked about privacy and security concerns, an Amazon spokesman said he couldn’t respond to “hypothetical situations.” The company didn’t respond to a request to make an executive available for an interview, but said that data that flows through its network has three-layers of encryption that’s meant to to keep hackers from seeing it.
Samir Jain, director of policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said Amazon’s efforts to encrypt data was a good step. But Jain said that it’s hard to identify security vulnerabilities until a new technology is deployed in the real world.
WHICH DEVICES WANT TO SHARE MY INTERNET?
Echo devices that share network bandwidth via Sidewalk include the third generation and newer versions of the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Dot for Kids and the Echo Dot with Clock. The Echo Show 5, 8, 10; the second generation of the Echo Show; Echo Spot; Echo Plus; Echo Studio; Echo Input; Echo Flex.
Sidewalk-enabled Ring devices include the Ring Floodlight Cam; Ring Spotlight Cam Wired; and Ring Spotlight Cam Mount.
DOES AMAZON HAVE BIGGER AMBITIONS?
Amazon has explained Sidewalk in the context of consumer devices such as cameras and speakers. But it could also one day integrate the technology into its core business: delivering goods.
For example, the company could embed tiny internet-connected devices into cardboard packages to help track them, said Clausen of École Polytechnique.
“Having integration of alarm systems, presence detection of whether or not people are there, will potentially allow Amazon to create more efficient delivery schedules and fewer re-deliveries,” he says. That could be one application Amazon is thinking about, he added.
NEW YORK (AP) — By JOSEPH PISANI and MATT O’BRIEN AP Business Writers.
Google Announces Google Workspace for Everyone
Google announced on Monday a series of updates that build upon its vision to deliver a single, integrated communication and collaboration solution to everyone via Google Workspace.
Now, all of the company’s three billion-plus existing users across consumer, enterprise, and education have access to the full Google Workspace experience, including Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Meet and more.
In addition to offering Google Workspace to everyone, the company announced new innovations that address the specific challenges and opportunities of the hybrid work world:
- The evolution of Rooms in Google Chat to Spaces
- A new individual subscription offer: Google Workspace Individual
- New enhancements to Google Meet that enable collaboration equity
- New security and privacy capabilities across Google Workspace
“Collaboration doesn’t stop at the workplace – our products have been optimized for broad participation, sharing and helpfulness since the beginning,” said Javier Soltero, VP and GM, Google Workspace. “Our focus is on delivering consumers, workers, teachers and students alike an equitable approach to collaboration, while still providing flexibility that allows these different subsets of users to take their own approach to communication and collaboration.”
“With this update, Google Workspace is creating a new competitive advantage by optimizing for a single, connected experience across its products that it is extending to consumers and individual business owners, to align with the experience that its enterprise and education subscribers benefit from today,” Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst, Moor Insights & Strategy, said in a statement.
Google Workspace for everyone
Every day, the world’s most innovative companies, schools and nonprofits use Google Workspace to transform how people work and achieve more together.
It’s a daily part of how leading healthcare providers revolutionize patient care, schools turn remote learning into an immersive, personalized experience, and aerospace companies rethink flight. Starting today, Google Workspace is available to anyone with a Google account, meaning friends, family, or groups of any kind can stay connected, work together, and share helpful information in a single space.
For example, you can organize a junior sports league with ease, take that fundraiser to the next level, or even turn a hobby into a business. Starting today, users can enable the integrated experience in Google Workspace by turning on Google Chat in Gmail.
Connecting content and people in powerful ways
With the introduction of Spaces, the Rooms experience in Google Chat will evolve into a dedicated place for organizing people, topics, and projects in Google Workspace. “Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and launch a streamlined and flexible user interface that helps teams and individuals stay on top of everything that’s important,” a statement by the search engine said.
Powered by new features like in-line topic threading, presence indicators, custom statuses, expressive reactions, and a collapsible view, Spaces will seamlessly integrate with files and tasks, becoming a new home in Google Workspace for getting more done—together.
Spaces will also provide a place to fuel knowledge sharing and community building for teams of all sizes, where all the relevant information, conversations, and files for a project can be organized, and where topics—even at the organization level—can be intelligently moderated.
With the ability to pin messages where everyone can see them, Spaces will play a crucial role in helping people stay connected and informed.
Google Workspace Individual
Google Workspace is also launching Workspace Individual, a powerful, easy-to-use solution that was built to help individual business owners grow, run, and protect their business. This new subscription offering provides premium capabilities, including smart booking services, professional video meetings and personalized email marketing, with much more on the way.
Within their existing Google account, subscribers can easily manage all their personal and professional commitments from one place with access to Google support to get the most out of their solution.
Workspace Individual is rolling out soon to six markets, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, and Japan.
A single, connected experience
As businesses move to a hybrid work environment, the importance of creating secure collaboration spaces and fostering human connection has never been more important. Because Google Workspace was designed to fuel anywhere, anytime collaboration, it’s now helping millions of organizations navigate the challenges and opportunities of the newly emerging work model.
Customers are using Google Workspace to rethink virtual meetings, provide people with modern tools to stay connected and manage their time and attention, and double down on security and privacy.
Apple reaffirms privacy stance amid Trump probe revelations
Seeking to protect its image as a guardian of personal privacy, Apple maintains it was blindsided and handcuffed by a Trump administration probe that resulted in the company handing over phone data from two Democratic congressmen.
Apple delivered its version of events Friday in response to news reports detailing the U.S. Justice Department’s aggressive attempts to use its legal power to identify leaks tied to an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia.
The Justice Department was able to persuade a federal grand jury to issue a subpoena that culminated in Apple turning over the metadata — information that can include general records of calls and texts — about House Intelligence Committee members Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats, during 2018. Both lawmakers were key figures on the committee looking into Trump’s connections with Russia; Schiff is now the panel’s chair.
Neither Schiff and Swalwell knew some of the information had been seized until May 5, after a series of gag orders had finally expired, according to the company.
The revelation of Apple’s compliance with the subpoena emerged at a time when the company has been ramping up efforts to frame privacy as “fundamental human right” in its marketing campaigns. Apple also upped the privacy ante in April when it rolled out privacy controls on the iPhone as part of an effort to make it more difficult for companies such as Facebook to track people’s online activities to help sell ads.
In a statement, Apple emphasized it will continue to fight unjustified legal demands for personal information and keep customers informed about them.
But in this instance, Apple said it was constrained by a nondisclosure order signed by a federal magistrate judge and said it had no information about the nature of the investigation.
“It would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts,” the Cupertino, California, company said. “Consistent with the request, Apple limited the information it provided to account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures.”
Apple also believes other technology companies may have been confronted with similar legal demands, based on the broad nature of the request it received for “customer or subscriber account information” spanning 73 phone numbers and 36 email addresses.
It remains unclear how many other companies may have been swept up in the Trump administration’s attempt to track down leakers.
In a statement, Microsoft acknowledged receiving at least one subpoena in 2017 related to a personal email account. It said it notified the customer after the gag order expired and learned that the person was a congressional staff member. “We will continue to aggressively seek reform that imposes reasonable limits on government secrecy in cases like this,” the company said.
Privacy experts were more troubled by the U.S. laws that allowed the Justice Department to secretly obtain the subpoenas and then keep them under wraps for years than by Apple’s limited compliance with the demands.
The subpoenas represent a “a quintessential example of government abuse” that ensnared Apple, said Alan Butler, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
“It’s very difficult to challenge these types of subpoenas, but it’s not impossible,” Butler said. “And if there ever was one worth challenging, it might have been these.”
Apple’s response to the subpoena doesn’t necessarily contradict its stance on the sanctity of personal privacy, said Cindy Cohn, executive director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group. That’s because Apple privacy commitments mostly revolve around shielding its customers from online surveillance.
She thinks the bigger issue is why U.S. law allows a grand jury to issue a subpoena and then block Apple from alerting the affected people.
“The overall secrecy of this is troubling, especially since it appears to have all been a politically motivated investigation,” Cohn said.
Apple has a history of fighting legal requests, most notably in 2016 when the Justice Department sought to force Apple to unlock the iPhone owned by one of the killers in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.
Apple refused to cooperate, contending it would open a digital backdoor that would pose threats to the security and privacy of all iPhone users. The legal showdown ended when the FBI hired another firm to unlock the iPhone connected to the shooting.
“Apple really put its money where its mouth is that time,” Butler said.
SAN RAMON, Calif. (AP) — By MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer.
The 4 major benefits of using cloud computing services for your business
It is hard to argue against the convenience of having a seamlessly accessible hard drive in the sky, used to send, and retrieve data at any point, from anywhere. Whatever documents or files you think might be remotely useful at some point, just stick it on the cloud and forget about it.
The benefits that cloud adoption brings to businesses large and small are no different.
There are major benefits to companies that choose to adopt cloud computing services that cannot be overlooked and that give such companies a serios edge over their competition.
Well strictly speaking, it is limited by the size of your wallet and the number of servers in a warehouse. You do not, however, need to carry any hardware such as portable drives or thumb sticks to store your data. That’s the cloud providers problem, and so long as you pay for space, they are happy to provide.
Many organizations fear that using cloud computing services may leave them vulnerable to being breached. Using in-house storage may give them a sense of security given the servers are right in front of them.
But consider this, a cloud provider’s full-time job, their specialty, is to constantly monitor and secure their connections and respond in cases of emergency.
Though there is a gap in readiness to adopt, 75 percent of IT professionals view the public cloud as more secure than their own data centers and solutions according to a 2020 report by Oracle; while response times to breaches and disaster recovery are made easier and much faster compared to in-house security teams.
On top of all that, there are the decreased costs; organizations need not divide their time and resources on security if they can outsource all that to specialists for a price.
Collaboration and Flexibility
The ability to access data from any device gives employees the ability to, well, do just that. In any conference or meeting, on a plane or in a hotel on vacation – not that an employee should be working on vacation, but it’s a brave new world.
This increased flexibility makes it easier for different departments and employees to collaborate and access common files. Like a companywide Google doc.
If a business needs to increase their bandwidth, or adversely, if they no longer need it for whatever reason, they can easily scale their needs up and down.
Instead of adding, removing, storing, or modifying in-house servers, the company can simply tell their cloud provider who can scale their processes based on the needs of their customers.
In parallel, if a company is looking to implement a new operating system or software update, a lot of time can be saved by simply applying the change through the cloud itself.
We know by now that companies who do not advance don’t stay around. The adoption of cloud computing services is the perfect way for small, medium and large-scale businesses to take care of their tech needs without splitting themselves into parts or wasting resources that could be used to improve and grow their business.
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