TAMPA, Fla. — If you are using one of Amazon’s products like the Echo or Tile, you have less than 24 hours to opt out of sharing your digital bandwidth with the company.
Amazon will turn on its “Sidewalk bridge” service Tuesday on millions of devices and the only way to have it turned off, is to manually opt-out of the service (more on that later). Sidewalk is Amazon’s way of trying to create a network of interconnected devices, both their own and other third-party created. Devices would use Sidewalk bridge to connect to each other through Bluetooth and radio frequencies to each other.
Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it may sound. It works like this:
- An Amazon Echo is connected to your home network. It’s also automatically connected as a "bridge" to any other Sidewalk-enabled devices in range of Device A when Sidewalk is enabled. (Amazon says it uses Bluetooth, the 900 MHz spectrum, and other frequencies for connections)
- All those devices, like a neighbor's Echo device, in the range of Device A, are also connected to every other Sidewalk-enabled device in their ranges as well. Thus, it creates a mesh-type network of all the Sidewalk-devices that are connected together.
- The devices then can share Internet data/connectivity even if they are not on their home network. Amazon says it’s a small portion of your home bandwidth, a maximum speed of 80 kbps, and monthly data is capped at 500 MB.
Consider this example, your home network goes out because of a power/Internet outage. Any Sidewalk-enabled devices at your home could still connect to the Internet by using your neighbor's devices that still have power/Internet. So, your Ring camera could use the neighbor’s shared data to push some alerts (Amazon said the bandwidth won't allow video streaming) if the devices are within range.
While it may sound intimidating, or scary, it’s already been enabled on some devices before. Specifically, Sidewalk has been available for Ring Spotlight and Floodlight cameras since last year. According to Amazon, here’s a full list of devices with Spotlight set to be enabled:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Plus (all generations)
- Echo Show (2nd gen)
- Echo Show 5, 8, 10 (all generations)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input
- Echo Flex
So, what can you do if you don’t want to be involved in Sidewalk? It’s relatively easy to turn the system off in your Echo devices.
- Open your Alexa app
- Navigate to Settings -> Account Settings -> Amazon Sidewalk
- Click the radio button for “Disabled”
- You can also choose to leave it on, but disable the community finding aspect.
On your Ring devices:
- Open the Ring app
- Navigate to Control Center -> Amazon Sidewalk -> Disabled -> Confirm
For more on Amazon's view of Sidewalk security, click here for a white paper on the issue from the company.