Amazon alerted users of its Alexa-powered devices that it will soon enable a potentially dangerous new service called Sidewalk. You may want to disable it.
“Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better,” an Amazon email reads. “For example, if your device loses its [Wi-Fi] connection, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router and help set up new Echo devices. Sidewalk can also extend the coverage for Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights and pet and object trackers, so they can stay connected and continue to work over longer distances.”
That all sounds fantastic. But read a bit further, and you’ll find that Sidewalk “uses a small portion of your Internet bandwidth to provide these services to you and your neighbors.” That’s right: Amazon is going to siphon off a portion of your Internet bandwidth—during a pandemic, when we’re all working from home and need that connection—so that your neighbor’s Echo and other compatible devices will work better. And yes, this setting will apply to all of the supported devices that are linked to your Amazon account.
No, it’s not that much bandwidth—80Kbps, Amazon says, and it’s capped at 500 MB per month. But still. Does anyone else have a problem with Amazon silently creating a public mesh network in your neighborhood?
Here’s the good news: You can disable it, and you can do so now. To disable Sidewalk, open the Alexa app on your mobile device and navigate to More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk.