Amazon Sidewalk: What is it, Why you should disable it, and How to do it

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What is Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items.

This means that the service will share a little bit of your Internet bandwidth with nearby neighbors who don’t have an internet connection and you will get a little bit of their bandwidth when you don’t have a connection.

A few months ago, all Amazon devices, such as Echo, Alexa, Ring, and Tile trackers, were automatically enrolled for Amazon Sidewalk.

The Pros

The Amazon Sidewalk webpage includes some of the reasons why you should keep this feature enabled (since all devices will automatically include this feature). For example, the webpage says,

  • 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 helps your devices get connected and stay connected. For example, if your Echo device loses its wifi connection, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router.
  • For select Ring devices, you can continue to receive motion alerts from your Ring Security Cams and customer support can still troubleshoot problems even if your devices lose their wifi connection.
  • Sidewalk can also extend the working range for your Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights, pet locators or smart locks, so they can stay connected and continue to work over longer distances.
  • Amazon does not charge any fees to join Sidewalk.

The Cons

While no one has pointed out specific flaws about the new feature detailed in their Whitepaper, there are still some things you may want to consider before you keep this feature on. For example,

  • Wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have a history of being insecure.
  • Consider the wealth of intimate details Amazon devices are privy to. They see who knocks on our doors, and in some homes they peer into our living rooms. They hear the conversations we’re having with friends and family. They control locks and other security systems in our home. Extending the reach of all this encrypted data to the sidewalk and living rooms of neighbors requires a level of confidence that’s not warranted for a technology that has never seen widespread testing.
  • As independent privacy researcher Ashkan Soltani puts it: “In addition to capturing everyone’s shopping habits (from and their internet activity (as AWS is one of the most dominant web hosting services)… now they are also effectively becoming a global ISP with a flick of a switch, all without even having to lay a single foot of fiber.”

Check out the article on Ars Technica to learn more about Amazon Sidewalk. 

How to Disable Amazon Sidewalk

Ultimately, it’s up to you if you want to keep Amazon Sidewalk enabled. But if you think the cons outweigh the pros, then here is how you disable Amazon Sidewalk from activating. Yes, you have to do this yourself, since Amazon Sidewalk will enable automatically on June 8th, 2021.

STEP 1: Open the Amazon Alexa App and click on “More”

STEP 2: Click on “Settings”

STEP 3: Click on “Account Settings”

STEP 4: Click on “Amazon Sidewalk”

STEP 5: Disable Amazon Sidewalk

There you have it!

What do you think of Amazon Sidewalk? Is it feature you are looking forward to? Or do you have some reservations? Let us know!

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