How to opt out of Amazon sharing your WiFi network with strangers
Amazon’s new Sidewalk feature is going live on June 8. Announced all the way back in 2019, Amazon Sidewalk is an ambitious project that aims to create a shared network of connected devices. Amazon has been testing the feature for some time now, but it finally appears to be ready for its prime-time launch.
As part of the rollout, Amazon will enroll millions of supported Amazon devices in the U.S. into Sidewalk to form a mesh network. To form this mesh, Amazon will share a fraction of your Internet bandwidth with your neighbors. Naturally, anything that involves sharing your home network with outsiders will trigger privacy and security concerns. And these concerns are further compounded by the fact that Amazon is making Sidewalk an opt-out service rather than opt-in.
In other words, Amazon won’t ask you whether you want to be part of this experiment. Instead, the company will just straight up enroll every supported device into Sidewalk starting June 8. But the good thing is that it’s possible to opt out of this initiative before it goes live. Before you go ahead and disable the feature, though, it’s worth reading about how it works so you can decide if it’s really a threat to your privacy.
How Sidewalk works
Conceptually, Amazon Sidewalk works similarly to Apple’s Find My network but with a bigger scope in mind. While Apple’s “Find My” service only helps locate AirTags and lost Apple devices, Amazon Sidewalk can do much more than that. For example, it can extend the working range of your connected devices beyond your home Wi-Fi, locate your pets and valuables, and more. Sidewalk employs Bluetooth Low Energy, the 900Hz band, and other frequencies to enable Echo speakers, Tile trackers, Ring security cameras, and other supported Amazon devices to communicate over a low-bandwidth network created using participating devices. Each participating device, referred to as Sidewalk Bridge, contributes a small portion of internet bandwidth. This bandwidth is pulled together to create a shared network that supported devices can use to help each other out.
Amazon says the maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk device to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, while the monthly bandwidth per account is capped at 500MB. In response to privacy concerns, Amazon says all communications over Sidewalk Bridges are secured by three layers of encryption. Amazon also limits the amount and type of metadata it collects from participating devices to protect user privacy. And although users can see they’re connected to Sidewalk, they can’t see exactly which Bridge they’re connected to. For a detailed explanation of the various mechanisms employed by Amazon to protect the privacy and security of Sidewalk users, check out this whitepaper.
How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk
If you don’t want to be a participant in Amazon’s Sidewalk network, you can opt-out of the experiment using the Alexa app or Ring app.
- In the Alexa app, open the “More” tab > tap Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > and turn off the toggle.
- In the Ring app, open the hamburger menu > Control Center > Sidewalk > toggle off the slider.