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World Amazon faces a privacy backlash for its Footpath feature, which turns Alexa devices into neighbourhood WiFi networks that owners have to opt out of

20:06  26 november  2020
20:06  26 november  2020 Source:   businessinsider.com.au

A comprehensive list of Alexa voice commands you can use with your smart devices

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Digital voice assistants like Amazon 's Alexa have become household staples. While Apple doesn't currently allow people to delete their info, it has plans to give them the option to opt out of having their recordings reviewed. First, open the Amazon Alexa app on your iOS or Android device — make

a close up of a wooden table: Amazon Echo smart speaker. Amazon Echo smart speaker.
  • Amazon Footpath is launching in the US as an opt-out feature that will connect Echo and Ring doorbells to any nearby Alexa device, even those owned by your neighbours.
  • Amazon said Footpath uses WiFi from neighbours to create "a shared network that helps devices work better," but some raised privacy concerns.
  • Amazon apologised to UK Alexa owners, some of whom were notified of the US-only launch.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Amazon users are being automatically opted into Footpath, a feature that will connect Alexa devices to nearby WiFi networks, even those owned by someone else.

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Plug the Amazon Echo device into an electric socket. It will light up and the ring will turn blue for a minute or two. Once the ring turns yellowish orange, launch the Alexa app that you just installed on your phone. However, surprisingly, you have to update an app (if an update exists) to fix this issue.

By un-checking the ‘smart- network ’ setting, the Amazon Alexa configuration app was instantly able to see my WiFi networks , and to let me finish the configuration process. Has the light ring on top of your Amazon Echo has turned blue, you may need to unplug its power and reconnect it, so the ring turns

Footpath uses Alexa devices, including Echo and Ring video doorbells, to create a "shared network" that will help "devices work better," Amazon said in an email to device owners. It allows nearby devices to use a portion of a neighbour's WiFi bandwidth, so that devices can have more range.

Amazon said on a launch page: "These Bridge devices share a small portion of your internet bandwidth which is pooled together to provide these services to you and your neighbours. And when more neighbours participate, the network becomes even stronger."

Anticipating privacy concerns, Amazon published a research paper detailing the technology behind Footpath and the steps taken to keep users' data private. The company concluded that privacy was one of the "foundational principals" of Footpath's design.

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Want to use the Alexa powered Amazon Echo outside US, in countries like India, UK, Australia etc.? The first hurdle that users will face while trying to get Echo set up outside the US is the fact that the Amazon Alexa app (Android, iOS) is simply not available anywhere other than the US.

Amazon Alexa is more ubiquitous than ever and is now available in over 42 countries worldwide – and in a host of languages. Here’s the features that Amazon flat- out states are not available through the international version of the Echo: shopping, local traffic and business search, select skills from the

The report's authors said: "By sharing a small portion of their home network bandwidth, neighbours give a little â€" but get a lot in return."

Some were still sceptical of whether such a network would keep user data private. Surrey University Professor Alan Woodward, who specialises in cybersecurity, told BBC News that Footpath should be an opt-in feature, adding, "It feels wrong not knowing what your device is connected to."

Ian Thornton-Trump, chief information security officer at Cyjax, told Forbes the launch was "deeply problematic from a privacy perspective."

"The 'on by default' approach is not consumer friendly. 'No one rides on my Wi-fi for free,' especially a giant corporation with billions of dollars," Thornton-Trump said.

As of Wednesday, Amazon was only rolling Footpath out in the US, but some UK users reported getting an email about its launch.

Amazon apologised on Twitter via its Support account, saying: "I apologise for any confusion. We recently began emailing customers with Echo devices registered in the US to give them more information about Amazon Footpath. This service will only be available in the US when it launches."

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