As of June 8th, Amazon will automatically enroll all compatible Amazon devices into its Sidewalk program, which will allow the products to optionally share your internet connection with neighbors.
The devices included are essentially most of the Amazon Echo and Ring doorbell/camera series, at this time.
Amazon argues that Sidewalk is beneficial to communities, as it allows devices to continue operation even without their own dedicated internet connection. But, as the scheme is opt-in by default, we'll tell you how to remove yourself from Amazon's latest experiment.
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What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is the company's way of ensuring that its home devices are able to operate even when there is an internet outage, or if a product is just outside Wi-Fi range. It does this by piggybacking off your neighbors signals – provided they have their own opted-in Amazon devices – in a process referred to as Sidewalk Bridges.
Amazon gives an example scenario of helping to track down a lost pet with an attached Tile tracker, thanks to a connected network of Sidewalk Bridges. This would mean that the wandering animal can constantly be tracked, no matter how far it strays from your home wi-fi connection.
The service is free to Amazon customers, and owners of compatible devices are able to opt out of the automatic enrolment before the 8th of June deadline.
Is Amazon Sidewalk Safe?
Whether or not Amazon Sidewalk is safe will almost certainly depend on who you ask. Amazon, for example, is resolute in its messaging that the system is entirely secure. The location of any devices acting as Sidewalk Bridges in your home is approximate, rather than a exact geographic representation, which is probably just as well, given that it would essentially be advertising where all your fancy Amazon gadgets are located.
‘Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data traveling on the network and to keep customers safe and in control.' – Amazon blog
Amazon has written a whitepaper on the security aspects of Sidewalk, assuring users that information is encrypted. However, the possible negatives of Amazon Sidewalk are two-fold.
Firstly, there's a theoretical chance that this encryption could be broken. In age of rampant ransomware and countries hacking national elections, it's not outside the realm of possibility.
Then there are the privacy implications of what you're happy to share Amazon itself, and the question of how much power and information you feel comfortable handing over to company.
How Do I Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk?
As of the 8th of June, all compatible Amazon devices are automatically enrolled to be Sidewalk Bridges. However, if you don't feel comfortable with this, you can act now to opt out of the program. There's no detriment to doing this – your devices will still work as usual.
To opt out of Amazon Sidewalk is thankfully incredibly straightforward. Simply open the Alexa app, click on More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Off.
If your wondering if your device is affected, Amazon has provided a list of compatible devices:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Plus (all generations)
- Echo Show (all models and generations)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input
- Echo Flex
It's worth noting that at this time Sidewalk is only operating in the US, although we would expect it to expand internationally, should it prove successful.