Amazon device owners have until June 8, 2021 to opt out of Amazon’s new wireless mesh service, Amazon Sidewalk.
A little over two years ago Amazon introduced Amazon Sidewalk, a product that would use Amazon devices to essentially share internet connections with others, borrowing bandwidth from popular devices including Echo, Ring, Alexa, Tile trackers, outdoor lights and security systems. The goal of the product is to allow customers’ devices to communicate more efficiently over long ranges. For instance, if your Amazon controlled outdoor lighting system loses connection from your home network, Sidewalk—hypothetically—allows the device to borrow bandwidth from your neighbor to operate.
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers, Sidewalk can help simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices to help find pets or valuables with Tile trackers, and help devices stay online even if they are outside the range of their home wifi. In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security and lighting and diagnostics for appliances and tools.
Amazon Sidewalk is currently only available in the US and their product webpage located at https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Sidewalk includes an in-depth overview and FAQ, with questions such as:
How will Amazon Sidewalk impact my personal wireless bandwidth and data usage?
Why should I participate in Amazon Sidewalk?
Where can I change my Amazon Sidewalk preferences?
How does Amazon Sidewalk protect customer information?
Is Amazon Sidewalk a replacement for a home wifi network?
Should I Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon has indicated multiple times that Sidewalk is designed securely and uses multi-layer encryption to ensure that individual customers are not able to access any of their neighbor’s data through the shared mesh network. However, our team has several security concerns about the concept, such as the drastically increased impact of a potential compromise, even though unlikely, as well as Amazon’s approach to auto-enroll users into such a significant change to the original scope of their product(s).
Making Sidewalk an opt-out service versus an opt-in speaks volumes to how Amazon believed Sidewalk would be received by a consumer base that is increasingly educated and concerned about their digital privacy. Although Sidewalk may have good intentions and, in theory, be a secure and beneficial idea, we prefer to err on the side of caution and opt-out for the time being since shared connection technology has a history of being insecure.
How Do I Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk?
If you would like to opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk, the process is relatively simple:
Open the Alexa app
Select Account Settings
Select Amazon Sidewalk
Disable Amazon Sidewalk
Moving forward past June 8th, new devices will prompt owners if they want join Amazon Sidewalk, but all devices prior to the date are auto-enrolled unless they opt out with the steps above. Please note that you cannot disable this through your Amazon account, you will have to download the Alexa app to opt-out.
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