If you have an Amazon Alexa-enabled device, your internet connection may be accessible to your neighbors and even passersby, courtesy of a service called Amazon Sidewalk.
Although Amazon says Sidewalk protects your privacy, the company didn’t ask you — or me — if it could use our internet to share with others.
I have an Echo (3rd generation), which comes with Alexa, Amazon’s voice-powered assistant that allows you to operate smart devices via voice command.
In this article, I’ll tell you what Amazon Sidewalk is and how to opt out of sharing your internet bandwidth with your neighbors.
What Is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared low-bandwidth network that allows your devices to stay connected when you venture beyond your front door.
Amazon Sidewalk works by creating a “bridge” of internet connectivity by taking a portion of your bandwidth and making it available to people nearby who have the same or similar devices.
How Much of Your Data Does Amazon Sidewalk Use?
The maximum bandwidth of a “Sidewalk Bridge,” which is what the company calls the use of the shared network, is 80Kbps or “about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video,” according to the Sidewalk page’s FAQ section.
To guard against community overuse, Amazon says it caps your Sidewalk Bridge connection’s total monthly data use at 500MB.
Aside from more internet, Amazon says the benefits of the Sidewalk project include helping people locate their pets or items that they’ve lost. The more neighbors who have these devices enabled, the stronger the network, Amazon says on its website.
But what if you don’t want to share the internet you pay for with others? Here’s how to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk.
How To Opt Out of Amazon Sidewalk
The following steps are what I used to turn off Amazon Sidewalk on my Echo. The instructions are similar for the Ring and other Sidewalk-capable devices.
- Open the Alexa app on your mobile device.
- Tap the “More” button in the bottom-right menu.
- Tap “Settings“, then “Account Settings.”
- Tap “Amazon Sidewalk.” If you don’t see it, your device isn’t compatible or has not been synced with Alexa.
- Disable Amazon Sidewalk by toggling off.
What Devices Does Amazon Sidewalk Use?
According to Amazon’s website, here are the devices that use the 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
Remember, if you have one of the devices listed above, you’re automatically opted in to Amazon Sidewalk.
Money expert Clark Howard says he hopes one day that tech companies in America will borrow a page from Europe and let users have the freedom to choose the level of privacy they want their devices to have without having to take extra steps.
“I believe that all these kind of things should be ‘opt in,'” he says. “On the other hand, in the United States, you generally have to opt out. And these companies count on the fact that we’re not going to know we can opt out — or we don’t know how to.”