On June 8, Amazon will launch a new feature called Sidewalk that creates small, public internet networks powered by Echo smart speakers and Ring home security products in your neighborhood. Yes, including yours—unless you disable the setting, which is turned on by default. That means if you don’t want your devices included in this particular tech experiment, you only have a week left to opt out. But how exactly will the new network function, and will it put your data at risk?
What exactly is Amazon Sidewalk anyway?
Amazon notes that while Sidewalk does create a network of devices, we aren’t talking about a replacement for your normal home wifi network. Sidewalk is intended to, in Amazon’s words, “help devices work better” and “extend the coverage for Sidewalk-enabled devices.” It will only support certain low-powered internet features over Bluetooth, which could come in handy if you want to place a Ring security device on your property but your home wifi network doesn’t reach far enough. Sidewalk also includes a “Community Finding” feature that will make location-monitoring devices like pet trackers and Tile tags more effective and easier to find if lost.
In order to use these features, Sidewalk requires your neighbors to have Amazon Sidewalk-enabled products (which Amazon calls “Bridges) that your stuff can connect to (and vice versa). However, Amazon is taking a proactive approach and enabling Sidewalk by default for all applicable devices.
To reiterate: Sidewalk will be an opt-out feature for all applicable Amazon devices when it launches on June 8, 2021. New Alexa accounts and devices will also be automatically enrolled going forward—and odds are good most people purchasing Amazon gear will have no idea what Sidewalk is, nor stumble across it in their device’s options and disable it.
Is Amazon Sidewalk safe?
All Sidewalk networks are triple-encrypted, and Amazon uses several additional security features to obscure each user’s identity and data from each other. You won’t know who’s piggybacking off your network, nor the precise locations for connected devices even when using the “Community Finding” feature (it only provides the general whereabouts of the device you’re searching for).
The company also promises Sidewalk won’t drain your home network’s internet bandwidth; at most, Sidewalk will use 500MB of data a month and 80Kbps of bandwidth at a given moment. Half a gig is a fair bit of data to give up if you’re on a strict cap, but it would take less than an hour to eclipse that amount if you’re streaming high-def media or downloading large files.
How to opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk in the Alexa app
Sidewalk might be a cool idea that won’t divert tons of power and data from your network, and it’s clear Amazon is taking the right security precautions, but making Sidewalk an opt-out service instead of opt-in is frustrating enough.
If you’re not on board with Amazon’s big Sidewalk plans, you can customize the Sidewalk settings for all your devices in the Alexa mobile app. Go to Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk. From here you have a couple options:
- Tap “Community Finding” to turn off approximate location sharing but let your devices use Sidewalk, or:
- Tap “Amazon Sidewalk” to toggle it off entirely.
What devices work with Amazon Sidewalk?
At launch, according to Tech Aeris, the following Amazon devices will be included in Amazon Sidewalk unless the function is disabled:
- 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
This post was originally published in December 2020 and updated on June 1, 2021 with new information about the deadline to opt out of the feature and supported devices.