What Is Amazon Sidewalk and How Do I Opt Out?
Here's what you need to know about the new shared network called Amazon Sidewalk. Some of your devices might be already connected to it.
Are you ready to share your internet with the whole neighborhood? You probably already are thanks to Amazon Sidewalk, a new shared network that has automatically been activated for some Amazon customers. Here’s what you need to know about the new program, and how to opt out if you want.
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What Is Amazon Sidewalk?
According to Amazon, “Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device [and] support other Sidewalk devices in your community.”
So what kind of “unique benefits” is Amazon talking about?
Amazon Sidewalk essentially expands your network by connecting it to the whole neighborhood. Your devices (see below for which devices work with Amazon Sidewalk) are connected to your neighbors’ devices, creating a large neighborhood network.
So if your outdoor smart lights or your smart garage door opener is out of your WiFi range, they’ll still be able to operate if connected to Amazon Sidewalk. And if your WiFi network goes down (we’ve all been there), your devices will still be connected to Amazon Sidewalk as long as your neighbor’s networks are still up and running.
Furthermore, if you use Tile trackers (small Bluetooth devices that attach to pets or valuables so you can find them quickly), Sidewalk extends their range of use. So if your puppy wanders off beyond the borders of your wireless network, his or her tracker will still be activated. Amazon claims in some cases the network can reach up to half a mile.
Sounds great, right? The potential is definitely worthwhile. But the network coverage varies by location. The more people who connect to Amazon Sidewalk in your area, the stronger the network will be.
Is There a Cost Involved?
No. There are no fees associated with Amazon Sidewalk. But you are paying, in a sense, with something else. Amazon Sidewalk uses a small portion of bandwidth from your existing internet service. Keep in mind you are only connected to Amazon Sidewalk if you own one of the compatible devices, such as Sidewalk Bridges.
What is a Sidewalk Bridge?
Sidewalk Bridges are the compatible devices that provide connections to Amazon Sidewalk. If you own a Sidewalk Bridge, you are already connected to Amazon Sidewalk (as of June 8). Here are the devices that function as Sidewalk Bridges:
- 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 (2nd gen);
- Echo Show 5, 8, 10 (all generations);
- Echo Spot;
- Echo Studio;
- Echo Input;
- Echo Flex.
Are There Any Risks to Amazon Sidewalk?
Some customers are concerned about privacy and security risks. And with Amazon seemingly already set on world domination, do you really want to be part of an Amazon-controlled community-wide network?
Amazon, of course, claims the network is safe. According to its website: “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. For example, Sidewalk Bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk.”
However, Amazon Sidewalk is a mesh network similar to WiFi or Bluetooth technology, so it might not be fully protected from the threats of malware or hacking. You’ll also need to decide how comfortable you are with Amazon collecting even more data about you. A larger smart home network means more functionality for you, but also means more data collection.
And with your smart speakers, smart cameras and other smart devices connected to one large network, it makes sense to be concerned about surveillance. It all comes down to how much you trust Amazon and their claims to keep your information safe.
Something else to think about — you will be sharing some of your bandwidth. The maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high-definition video. If you have several devices, the total monthly data used by Sidewalk is capped at 500MB. That’s about the same amount used to stream 10 minutes of high-definition video.
How To Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided Amazon Sidewalk is not for you, you’ll need to opt out. Remember: If you owned a Sidewalk Bridge device prior to June 8, you’ve already been connected to Amazon Sidewalk by default.
To adjust your settings or turn it off completely, open the Alexa app on your phone. Go to More, Settings, Account Settings, Amazon Sidewalk. There you can turn it off completely, or toggle the “Community Finding” option. That will turn off approximate location sharing of your devices but keep them connected to the network.