Privacy PSA: Amazon’s auto-opt in, network hive “Sidewalk” goes live June 8, here’s how to opt-out
If you are unfamiliar, Amazon is automatically opting in all Echo & Rings device owners into the Amazon Sidewalk hive network. This means Amazon will use a small portion of your Internet bandwidth (80Kbps of your bandwidth, capped at 500MB usage per month) over a 900MHz Wi-Fi radio spectrum. This is the same spectrum used for smart home device communication as well as older devices like walkie-talkies and landline cordless phones.
On one hand, hive networks like this could be very useful when attempting to locate lost devices (like smartphones) or lost pets (using a collar tracker). You wouldn’t need a 3G / 4G or 5G network connection to locate something. It would simply ping off a nearby Echo device, regardless of who owns it. There’s even a product called the Careband that’s used to track wandering dementia patients via this type of low-bandwidth network.
In addition, it could come in handy if you had a Wi-Fi outage at your home (assuming your neighbors still had Wi-Fi). Sidewalk could enable a form of emergency communication, thus allowing you to control smart home functions and receive alerts.
On the other hand, this type of location tracking could be used to track how your connected objects move within areas that have large concentrations of Echo devices, like neighborhoods. That’s the kind of information, even packaged as anonymized statistics, that would be very attractive to Amazon as well as any third-party company that pays for access to said data.
At this time, there’s very few products that are using Amazon Sidewalk and features are extremely limited. Regarding security, Amazon says the data will be within triple-encrypted packets and deleted after a 24-hour time period.
Here’s now to Opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk:
- Open the Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet.
- Tap the 3-lined ‘More’ in the lower right corner.
- Select Settings -> Account Settings -> Amazon Sidewalk
- Tap the toggle to flip Enabled to Disabled.
Devices that will auto-enroll you in Sidewalk include:
- Ring Floodlight Cam, Spotlight Cam
- Echo & Echo Dots (3rd gen or newer)
- Echo Plus
- Echo Show 5, 8 & 10
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input & Flex
If you don’t have one of these devices, you likely won’t see the Amazon Sidewalk option within the settings of the Alexa app. It’s likely that Amazon will add devices like Ring doorbell cameras to this list in the near future.