Amazon announced they are implementing their Sidewalk technology on June 8. What is Sidewalk? Amazon Sidewalk is a new feature built into later versions of Echo and Ring devices. It turns them into a wireless hub for other smart devices that anyone can make use of by piggy-backing your internet connection… and in return, you can use it on other people’s devices. The intention is to create a wide-ranging network covering larger areas, including whole cities. Within these areas, everyone’s Amazon devices can access. This means that a Tile tracker in your wallet can tell you roughly where it is even if you’re well out of range, or a smart sensor in your car can warn you of a break-in even from across town.
In simpler terms what it does is allow your devices to connect to your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, and to allow your neighbor’s devices to connect to yours.
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices like Amazon Echo devices, Ring Security Cams, outdoor lights, motion sensors, and Tile trackers work better at home and beyond the front door. When enabled, Sidewalk can unlock unique benefits for your device, support other Sidewalk devices in your community, and even locate pets or lost items.
Amazon Sidewalk creates a low-bandwidth network with the help of Sidewalk Bridge devices including select Echo and Ring devices. These Bridge devices share a small portion of your internet bandwidth which is pooled together to provide these services to you and your neighbors. And when more neighbors participate, the network becomes even stronger.
Think of it like Apple’s Find My service and AirTags. We know Apple designed their service with privacy in mind, as Apple is the forerunner in respecting your privacy. Amazon’s record on privacy is open for debate yet, but Amazon does say they designed Sidewalk with privacy in mind.
Sidewalk protects customer privacy by limiting the amount and type of metadata that Amazon needs to receive from Sidewalk endpoints to manage the network. For example, Sidewalk needs to know an endpoint’s Sidewalk-ID to authenticate the endpoint before allowing the gateway to route the endpoint’s packets on the network. Sidewalk also tracks a gateway’s usage to ensure bandwidth caps are not exceeded and latency is minimized on a customer’s private network.
Information customers would deem sensitive, like the contents of a packet sent over the Sidewalk network, is not seen by Sidewalk; only the intended destinations (the endpoint and application server) possess the keys required to access this information. Sidewalk’s design also ensures that owners of Sidewalk gateways do not have access to the contents of the packet from endpoints (they do not own) that use their bandwidth. Similarly, endpoint owners do not have access to gateway information. The Sidewalk Network Server continuously “rolls”, or changes transmission IDs (TX-ID) and Sidewalk Gateway IDs every 15 minutes to prevent tracking devices and associating a device to a specific user.
I do believe Amazon did design it with privacy in mind, but, as always, there is a cautionary note. This is an opt out only feature, meaning it will be turned on automatically unless you opt out of it. So if you do not want to participate in Amazon Sidewalk, you do have to let Amazon know by opting out.
How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk
- Open the Alexa app
- Open More > Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Off