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Security & privacy

Amazon Sidewalk: Should you opt-out of the neighborhood wireless network?

What happens when the internet goes down in a home with a Ring security system? Normally, this would mean the security feed gets cut off — but Amazon-branded devices have a bizarre new feature that can keep them connected no matter what.

The feature is called Amazon Sidewalk, and it’s all about data-sharing between Amazon gadgets. The strangest part: Connected devices don’t even need to be yours for the feature to work. Tap or click here to see how Ring users can share video feeds with the police.

Amazon recently emailed Ring and Echo owners to let them know that Sidewalk will be rolling out to their devices in the coming weeks. If you got one of these messages and feel confused about this new feature, we’ll break down how it works and what you can do to opt-out if you don’t want to use it.

Amazon’s unusual plan for keeping devices online

Amazon Sidewalk is a new feature rolling out to Amazon-branded gadgets in the final weeks of 2020. It’s designed to act as a backup network in the event Ring and Echo devices lose their internet connection, but the way it works has some security advocates scratching their heads.

In a nutshell, Amazon Sidewalk allows select Echo and Ring devices to piggyback off nearby Amazon gadgets’ connections. This can include devices belonging to other people in other houses. If they have Sidewalk enabled on their Ring or Echo, their devices can use your connections in a pinch, too.

The list of compatible products includes most of the latest Ring security cameras and 4th generation Echo speakers. Amazon claims that the Sidewalk networks created by these devices get stronger with more users participating. Using the feature, however, is still totally optional.

While the feature does have obvious benefits (like an always-on network for security cameras), not everyone will feel comfortable with bits and pieces of their network data being shared with others.

Amazon uses triple-layered encryption to keep everything anonymous, but Sidewalk is a service that shares data that you may not have known about. Thankfully, Amazon does give you a way to turn Sidewalk off if you don’t want to use it.

Related: How to stop Amazon from sharing your private information

I don’t want to participate in Sidewalk. How can I disable it on my Amazon products?

Not every compatible item will have access to Sidwalk just yet, but you can check if the feature is enabled using the Alexa app on your phone.

First, visit either the iOS App Store or Google Play to ensure you have the latest version of the Alexa app installed. Once you’ve downloaded the app, sign in to your Amazon account and follow these steps:

  1. Inside the Alexa app, tap More followed by Settings.
  2. Tap Account Settings, followed by Amazon Sidewalk.
  3. You’ll see the option to opt-out of the service. Turn Amazon Sidewalk off if you do not want to participate.

Echo speakers use plenty of personal data even if Sidewalk is disabled. If you want to deep-dive into your privacy settings, our guide can show you the most important options you need to address.

Tap or click here to see three essential privacy settings for your Amazon Echo.

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