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Opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk Before It’s Too Late. Don’t Wait!

If you haven’t heard of it, Amazon Sidewalk is a nice-sounding concept that you likely don’t want to be a part of. Why? Well, the fact that you have only four days left to make that choice alone is self-evident.

Indeed, according to Amazon, starting June 8, a long list of its existing smart home devices will work as Sidewalk bridges unless you choose to opt yours out before then.

Amazon Sidewalk

What is Amazon Sidewalk?

On the face of it, this is an excellent idea. Here’s what it is, per Amazon:

“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.”

Specifically, when enabled, supported devices will work together as “bridges” to form a low-bandwidth network, using the Internet of their owner. So, for example, your next-door neighbor’s Echo can use your broadband and vice versa. They do so without you having any say or control over the process.

The benefit, clearly, is that they can stay connected even when one of their networks is not available. On top of that, Amazon can blanket a large area for additional location-related applications, such as using Tile trackers to find lost items.

Currently, the following devices can work as a Sidewalk bridge:

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 it looks like Sidewalk is good for you. Or is it? But it sure is hella good for Amazon.

Why you should opt-out

There are three reasons you should think twice about being part of Amazon Sidewalk.

First, it’s the bandwidth concern.

Amazon says each Sidewalk bridge, for now, uses no more than 500MB of data per month, and its connection speed caps at just 80Kbps (or .08Mbps). “For now” is the keyword here — that might change — but let’s assume that it remains that way.

To put that in perspective, 500MB is roughly equivalent to the amount of bandwidth needed to view a single TV show episode on your iPad. If you have a typical broadband connection of 80Mbps download and 8Mbps upload, a single Sidewalk bridge will use no more than one-tenth of your home network’s broadband capacity.

However, you need to multiply that with the number of bridges you have at home. So, if you have ten Echo Dots, for example, the bandwidth used for Sidewalk can be substantial.

See also  Internet or Wi-Fi Speed Test: How You Can Figure Out the Correct Numbers

On top of that, think about the total amount of bandwidth being used for all bridges. And the one who benefits is Amazon. It’s unfair, to say the least.

(In case you don’t get it, this is like you put a penny or two in a tip jar every day for a guy who’s already super-rich. That’s ridiculous when you choose to do so, which is not applicable here.)

Second, it’s your privacy.

Participating in Sidewalk means you’ll be part of a massive data collecting network. Before this, you generally can avoid Amazon’s total data collection by not using its Wi-Fi solution, namely the eero. With Sidewalk, Amazon can potentially collect more of your online (and offline) data no matter what router you use.

And finally, the auto (permanent) opt-in approach is evil. This is clearly Amazon’s shameless attempt to turn its customers into products.

How to opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk, kind of

Clearly, you won’t need to worry at all if you don’t use any of Amazon’s “smart” devices. But you can’t help it, can you?

Well, here’s the alternative: From now until June 8th, you can disable Amazon Sidewalk on your existing gadgets. This option will no longer be available after. Here are the steps (using the Alex app, there might be other ways):

  1. Open the Alexa app on your phone. Make sure it’s connected to the device(s) in question.
  2. Tap on the More “hamburger” button at a corner. Then select Settings.
  3. Tap on Account Settings.
  4. Tap Amazon Sidewalk (you only see this if you have a supported device that’s associated with the Alexa app).
  5. Move the slider to the Disable position (it’s enabled by default.)
Amazon Sidewalk Disabled
Steps to disable Amazon Sidewalk using the Alexa app.

It’s important to note that disabling Sidewalk will not hinder the device’s original purpose. In other words, it’ll continue to work as it always has. The Sidewalk feature is an additional feature, not a required funtion.

The takeaway

With this auto opt-in approach, eventually, Sidewalk will be prevalent. That’s because chances are all devices you buy after June 8 will have it turned on, and there’s no way you can turn it off. Anything we do now is pretty much delaying the inevitable. But try as we shall.

Sidewalk might be a good idea. However, it gives users little control over whether or not they want to be part of something that sure costs them extra (in bandwidth or potentially privacy). And to enjoy the return, they’ll need to buy additional products or services. Is that a good deal? It’s your call.

Again, you have until June 8 to make that choice. Considering you can always opt-in later — if for some reason you want to — what you should do right now is a no-brainer.

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17 thoughts on “Opt-out of Amazon Sidewalk Before It’s Too Late. Don’t Wait!”

  1. Amazon has set this up as opt-in else many may not wish to join and defeats the purpose of trying to establish a large wide-area coverage network. Could they have thrown in a free digital credit or something to gain some trust/favor with customer, probably. I will give them benefit of the doubt…for now.

    To be fair, I think the media has gotten it wrong from the privacy standpoint, though I feel this is amazon’s “fault” since they haven’t engendered any customer loyalty with past practices. They are NOT collecting the individual’s data or traffic being sent just as Apple can’t see into the find my network (ie, it doesn’t know My apple device saw YOUR airtag, just that a hash ID device did and what location). Same with the amazon network. White paper is here:
    https://amzn.to/2VrsadL

    After looking into it, I’m willing to try sidewalk though agree very low threshold to “get out” if there is any questions or concerns.

    Reply
    • Privacy is NOT what others say they will or will not do but what you (are able to) allow them to do, Adam. Would you allow somebody to put a camera in your bedroom or bathroom just because they promise they will not look at anything but the door? It’s a matter of control which consumers have none over what Amazon or Apple actually do. Don’t drink the cool-aid. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Apple’s Find My network works the same way, isn’t it? They never told how much bandwidth they will gonna use.

    Reply
  3. I got the impression that this was a setting on each device. It looks like there’s a setting in the Amazon app itself to turn off sidewalk. I assume by having this turned off in the app, even devices that have sidewalk won’t be able to work since the option is turned off in the Alexa app. Is that right?

    Reply
  4. Yeah, as if Amazon doesn’t already know too much! Went back and re-read your VPN explainer and wonder if this kind of network abuse (for lack of a better term) would change your thinking about using a VPN at home. Would a VPN app help? or router VPN? or neither at all? Thanks for any insights in respect to how a VPN might mitigate this “customers into products” adventure.

    Reply
    • VPN doesn’t do anything in this case, Merckxist. Amazon has full control of the hardware involved. Truth be told, consumers never know what those boxes do exactly.

      Reply
  5. It’s worth noting that the settings may also be found in the Ring app under the Control Center. In my case I did not have the settings in the Alexa app but had to opt out through the Ring app instead.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the tip, Mike. And yes, the Alexa app needs to be connected with the supported device first before you can see the option.

      Reply
  6. Dong, if we don’t use Alexa, is this still a concern, or should we download Alexa just to update this setting?

    Thanks,

    Brad

    Reply

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