Ars Technica reports that on 8 June 2021, Amazon will flip the switch on Amazon Sidewalk, an experimental mesh network that uses Amazon devices to share small amounts of bandwidth with each other. Although you have a choice as to whether your Amazon devices will participate in Sidewalk, compatible Amazon devices are opted in automatically.
- 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 Flex
- Echo Input
- Echo Plus (all generations)
- Echo Show (all models and generations)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
Many media outlets are covering the news as though Amazon Sidewalk will share your full Internet connection. In fact, the bandwidth limits are small: 80 Kbps with a cap of 500 MB of usage per month. But, if you have limited bandwidth or a bandwidth cap, even that might be too much.
The other concern is privacy. Although Amazon has published a white paper outlining Sidewalk’s privacy and security features, the company doesn’t have the best record when it comes to protecting its customers’ privacy (for instance, see “Amazon’s Ring Doorbells Sent Wi-Fi Passwords in the Clear,” 21 November 2019). Plus, Amazon hasn’t always used the most aboveboard methods of increasing sales in the past (see “Amazon Using Police Departments to Sell Ring Cameras,” 29 July 2019). Finally, although this concern is tangential, one of the stated uses of Sidewalk is to increase the size of the network for Tile trackers. Apple has put significant effort into preventing the AirTag from being a tool for stalkers; could a significantly more capable Tile network be far more problematic?
If you wish to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk, open the Alexa app in iOS, go to More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk, and turn off Enabled, but this is only available if you already have a compatible device.