Stop Pretending Apple and Amazon's Bluetooth Networks Can't Be Abused - Gizmodo
May 07, 2021 2 mins, 9 secs
Hot on the heels of Apple’s AirTags launch, Amazon announced that it’s expanding its Sidewalk network with Tile, smart lock company Level, and elder care smartwatch maker CareBand.

The news is the biggest expansion of Amazon Sidewalk since it was announced last year, and offers a glimpse into how the company envisions this device-to-device network will work to help people find lost items or extend connectivity beyond wifi.

And while we can all agree networks like Amazon Sidewalk and Apple’s Find My, which enables AirTag’s tracking abilities, might make losing things a lot less annoying, we’re not talking seriously enough about how to prevent them from being abused.

It’s a sort of secondary mesh network in which Echo and Ring customers’ devices act as bridges to extend connectivity.

Likewise, if you turn on Apple’s Find My, your Apple devices act as Bluetooth beacons to help locate other Apple devices—even if they’re offline—and relay that to the owner of the device.

The fact that close to 1 billion Apple devices are part of the Find My network is a big reason why Apple’s AirTags are incredibly precise at finding lost objects.

By that logic, Amazon adding Tile, Level’s smart locks, and the CareBand stand will Sidewalk a more effective network to track items, too.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence told Fast Company it feared that AirTags could be abused as surveillance tools to discreetly track a partner, and that it is standard practice for halfway houses to thoroughly search through a survivor’s devices for these kinds of surveillance devices.

The reason why this moment is the exact time to raise the alarm is both Apple’s Find My and Amazon Sidewalk have the potential to make these devices easy to use, affordable, accessible, and extremely accurate, without the need for wifi or GPS.

According to Statista, there are 46.5 million Amazon Echo devices in the U.S.

Both Find My and Amazon Sidewalk depend on as many people as possible participating to be effective, so all of those devices are pinging each other in the background with accurate locations, but that scale also means that it doesn’t matter if you as an individual choose not to participate (which in both cases, you can).

So long as there’s an Apple or Amazon Echo device around, you can be tracked by a small, easily hidden Bluetooth device that doesn’t need to be connected to the internet or a cellular network or a GPS satellite to report on where you are.


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