Have you heard about Amazon Sidewalk? It is a shared public mesh network that Amazon developed to extend the range and reliability of smart devices like Amazon Echos or Ring products, even if you are out of range of your Wi-Fi or it goes down. To accomplish this, Amazon takes advantage of other compatible products with Sidewalk enabled to create an extensive public mesh network.
Although this sounds amazing, some people are concerned about the security risk that comes with opening your network to a public mesh. In this article, we will go over how to turn off Sidewalk on Alexa in 6 steps.
What is a Mesh Network?
Before we go too much further, we want to go over what a mesh network is. Simply put, a mesh network is a group of internet-connected devices that act as a single network, such as routers. Most of the time, this is accomplished through products like Google Mesh or Nest Wi-Fi extenders.
These mesh networks wirelessly connect as long as they are within range of each other, and if they are, they can boost your Wi-Fi range and reliability. In addition, if you have a Mesh network in your home, you will have multiple connection points under the same Wi-Fi network so you will not have to reconnect constantly.
How is Amazon Using a Mesh Network for Sidewalk?
Using the same concept, Amazon Sidewalk extends your Wi-Fi range and reliability outside your home. However, instead of having full access to everyone’s Wi-Fi network, Amazon says that they cap the internet bandwidth with your neighbors to a minimum. The total monthly data usage by Sidewalk is 500Mb, or about 10 minutes of HD video streaming. So. although Amazon Sidewalk technically gives your neighbors access to some of your internet services, they do not have access to connect to your Wi-Fi directly.
You might be asking yourself, why would I share my internet access with people that are not paying for it? Amazon’s tactic to spread this service is through the kindness of people’s hearts. But ultimately, Sidewalk might seem superfluous until someone can find a family member with a Careband tracker through a Sidewalk mesh network.
Is Sidewalk Safe?
Amazon has multiple security measures in place to protect both the network owners and the users on devices that are passing by. One of these security measures is a three-layer encryption protocol for all network usage that uses complex algorithms and rotating device IDs to minimize the amount of device data for Sidewalk users. The only exception to this rule is the person who uses the device and also owns the Sidewalk device it is connecting to.
The important part and what puts some people on edge is minimizing. Amazon can do its best to secure the data of its users, but unfortunately, that cannot promise 100% protection. Even most consumer internet service providers or ISPs cannot promise 100% protection from data leaks. That being said, if you are concerned about your internet security already, we do not recommend using Amazon Sidewalk. This is a new service, and there tend to be bugs with new services. Try checking back in every so often to see where Amazon is with it and if it lives up to your standards.
All that being said, if you like to like to be at the forefront of technology, Sidewalk is a really cool concept that offers a type of service never seen before. For example, with Sidewalk enabled, you can get home alerts like a motion sensor from the edge of your property instead of inside your house.
What Products Work with Sidewalk?
Since launching in 2021, Amazon has added a good amount of its products to the Sidewalk line. We have made a list of the current compatible products with Sidewalk. There are over 20 devices that you can enable Sidewalk with, but these are the most common products you will probably be using:
- Amazon Echo (third and fourth generations)
- Amazon Echo Dot (third and fourth generations)
- Amazon Echo Show (5, 8, and 10 models)
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Video Doorbell Pro
- Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
- CareBand Tracker
How to Turn Off Sidewalk on Alexa
By default, most Amazon products now come with Amazon Sidewalk turned on. Luckily, you can reasonably opt out of the service.
Step 1. Open the Alexa App
On your phone, open the Alexa app.
Step 2. Tap More
In the bottom right-hand corner of the app, tap on the More option.
Step 3. Select Settings
From the More page, tap on Settings. It should be towards the bottom of the screen.
Step 4. Account Settings
Next, tap on Account Settings, which is the second option in the Settings menu.
5. Amazon Sidewalk
In the Account Settings page, tap on Amazon Sidewalk.
Step 6. Turn Off Sidewalk
Finally, you will see a page explaining what Amazon Sidewalk is. To turn it off, tap on the blue switch next to Enabled. The text will now read Disabled, and the slider will be grey. Now, Sidewalk will be turned off on your Alexa device.
If, at any point, you want to go back and turn Amazon Sidewalk back on, follow these steps again and switch the option back over to Enabled.
For a simple walkthrough on how to disable Amazon Sidewalk, check out this tutorial video. It guides you through the necessary steps to protect your privacy and control your internet bandwidth sharing with Amazon’s network. Take charge of your data usage and online security by following the instructions in the video.
Overall, we think Amazon Sidewalk is an excellent service in its early days. When the service launched in 2021, Amazon made all of their compatible products have Sidewalk turned on by default, which reasonably made a lot of people angry. Since then, Amazon has rectified this, so when you set up a new Alexa device, you are asked if you want to turn it on.
This small change might appeal to a lot more people, but the inherent security risk Sidewalk comes with is a bit too much for some people. We think that entire neighborhoods connected via a mesh network are in our future, but it might be a couple of years before everyone adopts it.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Eric Broder Van Dyke/Shutterstock.com.