Amazon Sidewalk to go live this week: Here’s how to opt out of automatically sharing Wi-Fi with neighbors and strangers

Amazon Sidewalk Opt Out
Why is this an automatic Opt-In? Pic credit: The Unwinder/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Amazon Sidewalk is about to go live on June 08, 2021. The platform will use a portion of the internet and Wi-Fi connectivity for “community” purposes.

Once the Amazon Sidewalk platform goes live, each of the Amazon-branded devices will essentially communicate with each other. There is, however, a way to opt out of sharing the Internet with strangers.

What is Amazon Sidewalk, and will it get activated automatically on Amazon Echo and Ring devices?

Amazon will launch the Sidewalk service on Tuesday, June 08, 2021. The Amazon-branded devices, such as the Echo and Ring are part of the platform.

The platform creates a low-bandwidth wireless network by bridging together supported devices. The devices such as Echo and Ring will become Sidewalk Bridges.

Only compatible Sidewalk devices will be able to access this low-bandwidth network. The platform essentially provides them with Internet access if there is no other access available.

Amazon claims the service tries to provide Internet access to neighbor’s devices when their Internet goes down. Additionally, Amazon devices roaming throughout a neighborhood could also get temporary access.

It is important to note that Amazon-branded device owners are automatically included in the program. In other words, Echo and Ring devices will automatically start sharing the Internet, unless owners change specific settings.

Amazon has indicated that the maximum bandwidth shared at a time is 80Kbps, with a hard maximum of 500MB per month. This is an automatic auto opt-in, and there are steps to opt-out.

Furthermore, Sidewalk white paper explicitly states that all sensitive data transmitted using Sidewalk is encrypted. Amazon assures it does not have the decryption keys to decrypt the packets.

In simple words, Amazon claims it does not have any way of observing or recording any data that flows between the Sidewalk Bridges. The eCommerce giant also notes that data shared with Amazon’s Sidewalk servers is anonymous, and does not contain any identifying information or location data.

Why is Amazon sharing internet access?

Amazon Sidewalk official page notes, “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 Wi-Fi”.

“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”.

Sidewalk Bridges can also share their approximate location. The company claims this can help people to track items with Tile trackers attached to them.

All this may sound reassuring, but concerned users can easily opt out of participating in the program.

For Amazon Echo devices, users can disable Amazon Sidewalk by following these steps:

  • Open the Amazon Alexa App.
  • Select the More option in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.
  • Go to Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.
  • Set the Sidewalk toggle to disabled.
  • Close the Amazon Alexa app.

For Ring devices, users can disable Amazon Sidewalk by following these steps:

Open the Ring app.

  • Tap the three-lined icon to open the menu and go to Control Center > Amazon Sidewalk.
  • Set the Sidewalk toggle to disabled.
  • Close the app.

Once users disable Sidewalk, the company will not enable it again without user permission.

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