Amazon plans to combine every Echo speaker and Ring security camera in the United States into a shared “mesh network” to ensure devices stay online even when disconnected from their owners’ home Wi-Fi connection.
The system, called Amazon Sidewalk, faced scrutiny over the lack of transparency with regard to its rollout. Many people also express concerns about the potential privacy issues it could raise.
Not interested in taking part? Here’s how to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk before it goes live on June 8.
If you own an Echo speaker or a smart device that relies on a Wi-Fi connection, you know it becomes near useless when it gets disconnected from your home network. Amazon Sidewalk hopes to solve that problem.
A stronger network for Amazon devices
“Amazon Sidewalk creates a low-bandwidth network with the help of Sidewalk Bridge devices including select Echo and Ring devices,” explains an Amazon FAQ document. “These Bridge devices share a small portion of your internet bandwidth which is pooled together to provide these services to you and your neighbors. And when more neighbors participate, the network becomes even stronger.”
The system sounds somewhat similar to Apple’s upgraded Find My network. It allows iPhone, iPad, AirTag and more to ping off nearby Apple devices — even those owned by other people — so they can be better located when they get lost and disconnected.
Most people seem OK with Apple’s privacy-centered approach to its Find My network. However, Sidewalk raised all kinds of concerns among Amazon customers.
Amazon Sidewalk has its ups and downs
Amazon says it designed Sidewalk with multiple layers of encryption to protect users’ privacy. And the benefits of the system seem obvious. If your home network goes down, your doorbell or security camera can automatically attach itself to a neighbor’s Echo to stay connected.
However, many people are still concerned over the way in which Sidewalk allows random devices to piggyback on their home network. Others seem upset that Amazon kept quiet about its Sidewalk plans until it started rolling out firmware updates that prepare Echo and Ring devices for the feature.
And then there’s the issue over whether Sidewalk could breach your internet service provider’s terms and conditions, which typically do not allow this kind of network sharing.
How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk by June 8
Sidewalk is scheduled to go live on June 8, 2021. If you have concerns and don’t want your Amazon devices to be included in the program, you can opt out. Simply follow these steps:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet.
- Tap More, then tap Settings.
- Select Account Settings, then select Amazon Sidewalk.
- Slide the toggle to Disabled.
Your Amazon devices will now be excluded from Sidewalk. You won’t be able to piggyback on other Echo speakers and Ring security cameras. But other Amazon devices won’t be able to connect to your network.