If you’ve been paying close attention to tech news over the past few weeks, you may have seen several stories about something called “Amazon Sidewalk.” And, most of that news probably came with some kind of warning and instructions on how to turn it off.
Frankly, that’s good advice: Amazon Sidewalk is, in short, a functionality built into some Amazon Echo and Ring devices that allows the device to share a portion of your home internet connection with your neighbors’ devices. If that sounds like a privacy disaster waiting to happen, it’s probably because it is. Fortunately, Canadians don’t need to worry about Sidewalk, at least for now.
According to Amazon Sidewalk FAQ Page, it’s only available in the US That’s not to say it will stay in the US forever, but for now, Canadians shouldn’t panic.
MobileSyrup contacted Amazon to confirm if the company planned to bring Sidewalk to Canada in the future, and will update this post with any details the company shares.
How to turn to Sidewalk if you live in the USA
If you’re reading this and you live in the US, then luckily unsubscribing from Sidewalk is pretty easy (and you probably should). First of all, you will only have the option to unsubscribe from Sidewalk if you have a device eligible to use the feature, which includes the following:
- Echo and Echo Dot 3rd gen and later
- Second generation and newer Echo Show
- Floodlight Cam Ring
- Spotlight Cam Ring
You can also see a full list of Sidewalk compatible devices here.
To turn off the sidewalk, open the Alexa app> Tap Settings> Account Settings> Amazon Sidewalk> Tap the toggle to disable sidewalk.
For Ring devices, the process is similar, but you will need to do it in the Ring app. Open the app and tap the three-bar menu button in the upper left corner> Tap Control Center> Scroll down Amazon Sidewalk.
Turning off Sidewalk on a device should disable it for everything attached to your account. It’s also worth noting that some folks who turned the Sidewalk off found it turned back on. Amazon says it has fixed the problem, but it might be worth keeping an eye on.
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Finally, if you’re curious about more details on Amazon Sidewalk, here’s a quick rundown. As mentioned above, Sidewalk is an inactive feature on many Amazon Echo and Ring devices that, when enabled, allows those devices to share a portion of your home internet with your neighbors.
Sidewalk works by broadcasting its own non-Wi-Fi wireless network through Echo and Ring devices in ‘Sidewalk Bridge’ mode. Instead, the network consists of common Bluetooth to connect nearby devices and another type of signal that uses a 900MHz spectrum to connect to devices further away.
That means Sidewalk will be able to cover areas with a low-bandwidth wireless network that, according to The Washington Post, it can extend up to half a mile (approximately 0.8 km). While Sidewalk could bring many benefits, such as allowing connectivity in hard-to-reach places and expanding wireless coverage to more areas of a home, it also has several drawbacks.
For one thing, the participants have no control over the data that is transmitted through their network. There are also concerns around security and whether the network will help expand Amazon’s already frighteningly large surveillance network. And, given Amazon’s poor record on security, privacy, and employment rights.
And, if that doesn’t matter to you, there are other problems with Sidewalk: it uses some of your internet bandwidth. Sidewalk should only use up to 500MB per month, and Amazon says it’s capped at 80Kbps, a fraction of the speed needed to stream high-definition video. However, if you have a data limit on your home internet plan, or if you have a slower plan, both could consume precious internet, and Amazon won’t pay your home internet bill.
Image Credit: Amazon