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Why You Should Avoid Amazon Eero Mesh WiFi Routers: An Expert‘s Perspective

Are you considering buying an Amazon eero mesh WiFi system to blanket your home in wireless coverage? As an expert in digital technology and an advocate for online privacy, I believe you should think twice before investing in eero. While mesh WiFi has its benefits, Amazon‘s eero comes with serious privacy concerns that could put your personal data at risk.

In this in-depth guide, I‘ll walk you through exactly how eero works, the key reasons to be wary of its privacy implications, and some alternative WiFi solutions that offer better protection. By the end, you‘ll have all the facts you need to make an informed decision about whether eero is worth the risks.

How Eero and Mesh WiFi Work

Traditional WiFi routers emit wireless signals from a single point, which can lead to dead zones and slow speeds in parts of your home. Mesh WiFi systems like Amazon eero aim to solve this problem by using multiple access points (nodes) that connect to each other to create a single seamless network.

With eero, you connect one node to your modem as the main hub, then place additional nodes around your house. The nodes communicate with each other to determine the optimal path for each device‘s traffic. As you move around, your device automatically connects to the node with the strongest signal.

Eero nodes communicate with each other using a protocol called 802.11s, which is a wireless mesh networking standard. The nodes form a "backhaul" network between them that is separate from the main WiFi network your devices use. This allows the system to optimize performance and adapt to changing conditions.

While this mesh approach does provide more reliable coverage, it also means that your eero nodes are in constant communication, sharing data about your network traffic and devices. And all of that data is being sent back to Amazon‘s servers for analysis.

Eero‘s Invasive Data Collection

The biggest concern with eero lies in the extensive data it collects on users. According to eero‘s privacy policy, the system collects a wide range of information, including:

  • The model, serial number, and technical details of each device connected to your network
  • The volume of data sent and received by each device
  • The websites you visit, services you use, and content you engage with
  • Your devices‘ physical locations within your home based on WiFi signal strength
  • Detailed logs of your network speed, performance, and health

In essence, eero is able to monitor nearly all the activity that occurs on your home network. This includes not just general information about connected devices, but granular details about your online behavior.

Here‘s the key section from eero‘s privacy policy:

"The Personal Information that we collect includes: network and device information (such as hardware model and serial number of every eero device and other devices connected to the eero WiFi System, eero and connected device settings and usage information, domain name and Internet service provider ("ISP") details, network speed, bandwidth use and other network activity details, and approximate location of every eero device and other devices connected to the eero WiFi System based on the device‘s signal strength)…"

Note that while eero does not collect the actual content of your web traffic (e.g. emails, messages, etc.), it does log the websites you visit (via domain names and ISP information). This metadata alone can paint a detailed picture of your interests, habits, and daily routines.

What‘s more, eero is owned by Amazon, meaning all of this data is ultimately in the hands of one of the world‘s largest advertising companies. While Amazon claims it does not sell eero customer data, its privacy track record is far from perfect.

Consider these highlights from Amazon‘s history of privacy issues:

  • In 2019, a data breach at Amazon exposed the personal information of millions of customers, including names and email addresses. (Source)

  • Amazon has been found to use voice data from its Alexa devices for ad targeting, despite claiming otherwise. (Source)

  • Amazon trackers have been discovered on over 50% of the top 10,000 websites, collecting data on users‘ browsing habits. (Source)

So while Amazon may not be directly selling eero data today, there‘s little reason to believe it won‘t find ways to exploit that information for its own gain. It‘s not hard to imagine Amazon using eero insights to:

  • Build detailed user profiles based on WiFi activity to target ads across Amazon-owned platforms like Amazon.com and Twitch
  • Identify which smart home devices you own to recommend related Amazon products
  • Use your location and ISP information to personalize local shopping results and offers
  • Feed WiFi usage data into Amazon‘s AI algorithms to predict your future interests and behaviors

As an expert in digital tech, I find it hard to believe that Amazon would go through the trouble of acquiring eero and collecting such granular data without planning to monetize it for advertising purposes. And with Amazon‘s annual ad revenue now exceeding $30 billion, its motivations to exploit user data are only growing:

Amazon Annual Advertising Revenue (Billions)

Year Revenue
2021 $31.2
2020 $19.8
2019 $9.9
2018 $4.6
2017 $2.0

(Source)

You Can‘t Fully Opt Out

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that eero does not allow users to fully opt out of data collection. While the privacy settings do include an option to "opt out" of sharing information for "research and marketing" purposes, eero admits this does not actually stop it from collecting your data.

From the privacy policy (emphasis added):

"Please note that opting out of marketing communications or R&D participation will not affect the processing of Personal Information when it is otherwise permitted by law, such as to provide the Services, comply with legal requirements, and protect the safety, property, rights or security of Amazon and our customers."

In other words, even if you opt out, eero will still collect nearly all the same data points on your WiFi usage. The opt-out simply limits how that data can be used – cold comfort for anyone who values their digital privacy.

This lack of a true opt-out means that by simply using eero, you have little choice but to accept Amazon‘s intrusive data harvesting. Your only recourse is to avoid the system entirely.

Security Risks Compound Privacy Concerns

On top of the built-in privacy issues, several security vulnerabilities have come to light in eero and other mesh systems. These flaws could allow attackers to intercept traffic, gain unauthorized access to devices, or even take full control of the network.

In one example from 2020, researchers discovered flaws in eero‘s communication protocols that made it possible to inject malicious code into the mesh network traffic. This could have allowed hackers to spy on or manipulate data flowing between nodes. (Source)

Other studies have found similar vulnerabilities in mesh systems from Google, Linksys, and Netgear. The added complexity of mesh networks compared to single routers introduces more potential points of failure.

While eero and most mesh vendors do issue patches for the vulnerabilities they know about, the pattern underscores the risks of entrusting your entire home network to these relatively new technologies. No connected devices are immune to hacking, but mesh systems like eero may expand the attack surface for your home‘s most sensitive digital assets.

Eero Lags Behind on Features and Value

Even setting the privacy and security issues aside, eero has some significant downsides compared to competing WiFi solutions:

High Cost: Eero‘s three-pack with one main router and two beacons currently retails for $499, with a single add-on node for $199. Meanwhile, Google‘s popular Nest WiFi mesh system offers better performance for less, with a three-pack available for $399. If you don‘t need mesh, high-end traditional routers with comparable coverage to eero can be had for under $300.

Lack of Advanced Controls: Eero‘s software is designed for simplicity, which is great for average users but frustrating for more technical owners. You won‘t find many of the advanced networking options common to most routers, like the ability to separate devices into VLANs or fine-tune your WiFi channels. Other mesh systems like Netgear Orbi include more settings to tinker with.

Cloud-Based Management: Many of eero‘s core features, including adding new devices and adjusting network settings, can only be accessed through an app that connects to Amazon‘s cloud servers. This introduces more points of dependency compared to routers with local management interfaces. If Amazon‘s eero services go down, you could be left unable to control core functions of your home network.

Compatibility Issues: Some smart home devices, particularly older models, have been known to experience issues on eero networks due to the system‘s unique approach to IP address assignment. Users have reported needing to factory reset or reconfigure some connected products to get them working smoothly with eero. The system‘s "HomeKit Secure Router" feature is also incompatible with a wide range of devices.

So while eero‘s plug-and-play model is undeniably convenient, you‘ll be paying a premium for that simplicity – and sacrificing a good deal of control over your network in the process. For many users, especially privacy-conscious ones, that‘s a hard pill to swallow.

Better Options for Privacy-Conscious Users

If you need the convenience of mesh WiFi but want to avoid eero‘s privacy baggage, there are some notable alternatives to consider.

One standout is Synology‘s RT6600ax, a tri-band mesh system that keeps data collection to an absolute minimum. Synology clearly states that it does not collect any personal data from users‘ internet traffic. Instead of a cloud-based app, the RT6600ax offers a local web interface with robust security and networking controls. A two-pack typically retails for $100-200 less than an equivalent eero system.

For the most privacy-conscious, an open source mesh system like the GL.iNet Convexa S may be the best bet. These leverage open firmware that can be fully audited and customized, with no cloud reporting at all. Setup is more involved than eero, but affords complete control and transparency.

Here‘s how the key features and privacy practices of the top mesh systems stack up:

System Monthly Cost Phone-Home Data Collection Third-Party Cloud Services Open Source Firmware
Eero $99-$499 Extensive Required (Amazon) No
Nest $149-$399 Moderate Required (Google) No
Orbi $129-$699 Limited Optional No
Synology RT6600ax $299-$599 None None No
GL.iNet Convexa S $110-$187 None None Yes

(Sources)

If you don‘t need mesh at all, traditional routers from privacy-focused brands like Asus and Linksys are worth a close look. Many of their models include advanced encryption, VPN support, and granular control over your network traffic for a lower cost than eero.

The Verdict: Eero‘s Benefits Don‘t Outweigh the Privacy Cost

Despite the hype around mesh WiFi, my expert opinion is that eero‘s risks and downsides make it a poor choice for privacy-conscious consumers.

At its core, eero is designed to give Amazon an always-on lens into your home network and digital life. Every website you browse, every smart light bulb you install, every TV show you stream late at night – all of it will be piped back to Amazon‘s data troves and algorithms with eero watching over your shoulder. You shouldn‘t need a Facebook account to post on your neighborhood message board, and you shouldn‘t need to sacrifice your family‘s privacy to get decent WiFi coverage.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe our home networks should be a place where we can browse, stream, work, and play without fearing who might be peeking in on us. In the same way we expect privacy in our physical dwellings, we should demand nothing less in our digital abodes. A mesh router should be a silent traffic director, not a chatty data snitch.

In an age of rampant tracking and targeting by tech giants, sometimes the simplest solution is the smartest: find a secure router that does the job without asking too many questions. Let Amazon dominate e-commerce and cloud computing if it must, but keep your home network off its ever-expanding radar.

A little speed bump to your WiFi signal is a small price to pay to stop one more aspect of your life from ending up in Big Tech‘s overeager hands. When it comes to eero and Amazon, you‘ll catch me gladly cutting the cord and taking my privacy elsewhere.