Amazon using your WiFi and potential alcohol bans on flights

in June 9th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of June 9, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

Can sleeping earlier help lower your risk of depression? For night owls, yes! Researchers have found that shifting your sleep schedule to even just an hour earlier decreases your risk of major depression by 23%. And it goes up from there. For example, if someone who normally goes to bed at 1 am goes to bed at 11 pm, they would cut this risk by about 40%. How? Some suggest it’s the extra light exposure during the day while others think it’s reduced stress by finally syncing to the de facto schedule of the world. That said, it’s unclear how the study benefits those who are already early risers.


TECHNOLOGY

Amazon is helping you by using your internet for free

Tue Jun 1

Your neighbor may be using your WiFi without your consent. And it’s not because you shared your password — or because your neighbor even wants it — but because Amazon just gave access to fellow Amazon Echo or Ring users within a half mile radius of you. Called Sidewalk, this feature is a mesh network that allows connected devices to act as a single WiFi hub that ensures a constant, stable internet connection.

Why would Amazon do this? The company believes its customers want more reliable connection in an increasingly connected world. Sidewalk promises reliability by essentially providing backup WiFi access so that, for example, a security camera (Amazon Ring) can continue to send alerts even when there’s an internet disruption by piggybacking off another device with available bandwidth. But some worry the risks outweigh the benefits, asking questions such as… 

  • Who can access my data? While Sidewalk has three layers of data encryption, Amazon still has full access to the data passing through, increasing the intel available to the company’s surveillance side of their business. Although it is a smaller arm of the company, police forces across the U.S. made over 20,000 requests for their security footage last year.
  • How much of my internet are they using? Sidewalk authorizes your Echo or Ring to share up to 500 megabytes of your monthly bandwidth — the rough equivalent of 150 cellphone photos — and that counts towards data cap bills from your provider. This means Amazon is not covering the cost of bandwidth used in Sidewalk’s piggybacking — you are.
  • Can I opt-out? Users were opted-in automatically yesterday but can opt-out by going to the Alexa or Ring apps on your phone and heading to → Account Settings → Amazon Sidewalk → Disable.

While Amazon isn’t the first to create such a network, their approach is the most aggressive. Apple uses tiny snippets of people’s data when you need to use their “Find My iPhone” feature to track down your device. And the routers Comcast puts in our homes double as hotspots for other Xfinity customers — though that public traffic uses a separate WiFi network instead of your, hopefully, secured one.  

Some additional resources...


AIR TRAVEL

Airlines consider banning alcohol as passenger behavior worsens

Tue Jun 1

Urinating mid-flight, spitting in a child’s mouth, and assaulting flight attendants. These terrible incidents are among the thousands reported of unruly passenger behavior on flights this year. In fact, while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) usually receives 100-150 formal reports of bad passenger behavior every year, there’s already been 2,500 reports filed in 2021 alone. It’s gotten so bad that some flight attendants are even quitting. Their experiences include: 

  • Getting attacked by passengers ignoring standard instructions. One flight attendant on Southwest Airlines suffered face injuries and the loss of two teeth.
  • Being bullied by government officials. Alaska Airlines had to ban Senator Lora Reinbold who not only refused to comply with federally mandated mask policy repeatedly, but called staff “uptight” and “mask bullies” for simply doing their job. The airline has banned over 500 people this year. 
  • Having to restrain outlandish behavior while in flight. Airlines saw one passenger attempt to open the emergency exit door mid-flight and another this month try to storm the cockpit. Airline staff end up having to physically pin down the unrelenting, disruptive passengers while the flights are diverted to an emergency landing.

In an attempt to keep the problem from growing, airlines are considering alcohol bans. Southwest, American, and United Airlines have already extended their quarantine-induced alcohol suspensions, claiming alcohol contributes to the misbehavior of passengers already uneasy due to the pandemic and long hours of mask wearing. A former study dug into how intoxicated passengers make for unruly skies in general, citing a 35% increase in altercations on flights in 2017. Of those altercations, 27% involved alcohol consumption or some other form of intoxication. 

While federal guidelines on alcohol exist, some agencies are requesting new guidance to help control this growing problem and keep staff safe. Existing laws give airlines the right to refuse to board or serve intoxicated passengers, but drunkenness isn’t always easy to identify which might lead some passengers to get around the ban by drinking more before boarding. 

Some additional resources... 


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Is the WiFi down, honey?

No, I think the neighbor’s Amazon Echo is just updating.

Art Credit: Ascii Art Archive