Amazon plans to enroll many of its hardware devices that are operated in the United States, including many Echo devices and Ring Spotlight and Floodlight Cams, into its Amazon Sidewalk system on June 8, 2021.
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network. According to Amazon, it is used to make devices work better, e.g. by extending the working range of devices, keeping devices running even if outside the range of the wireless network of the home, or finding pets.
One of the ideas behind Sidewalk is that devices may continue to operate even if they lose access to the local wireless network; this works best in neighborhoods with lots of Amazon devices in the vicinity that all share some of their bandwidth.
Another key element of Amazon Sidewalk is that it creates a network for roaming devices, e.g. devices similar to Apple AirTags, that Amazon could utilize to provide the functionality.
Amazon Sidewalk uses Bluetooth, the 900 MHz spectrum and other frequencies to extend coverage and provide these benefits.
Each device, called Sidewalk Bridge by Amazon, shares up to 80kbps with the Sidewalk server when the feature is active. Amazon notes that the total monthly bandwidth is capped to 500 Megabytes for an account.
Neighbors will see the approximate location of Amazon Sidewalk devices, and not the street address.
Amazon Sidewalk will be enabled by default by Amazon on supported devices on June 8, 2021 in the United States. Amazon customers who operate Echo or Ring devices, need to opt-out of the program if they don’t want their devices to join the shared network and spend some of the home bandwidth.
The company published a privacy and security whitepaper that explains in detail how the system works and which privacy and security protections Amazon implemented.
How to turn off Amazon Sidewalk
Amazon explains on this page how Sidewalk can be turned off:
- Open the Alexa application.
- Select More > Settings.
- Select Account Settings.
- Select Amazon Sidewalk.
- Select Off to turn off Amazon Sidewalk for the account.
Some users reported that Amazon reset the setting for their accounts after they disabled Sidewalk. It is probably a good idea to check the setting regularly to make sure it remains disabled.
Amazon is creating a large network of connected devices using Sidewalk. Most Echo and Ring customers will keep Sidewalk enabled as they may not even know that Amazon enabled the feature on their devices.
For some, using Sidewalk may indeed be beneficial, but for the majority, privacy and security concerns outweigh all benefits that Sidewalk might provide.