For a clear explanation of Amazon’s intrusive Sidewalk feature for Echo and Ring, go to an unexpected source, Jeff Bezos’ own newspaper.
Sidewalk is being enabled on many Amazon Echo (‘smart speakers’) and Ring devices (cameras, doorbells) etc. It creates a hidden network that connects those devices to each other and the Internet. The hardware has been in the devices for the last few years but only now is being turned on.
For a clear explanation and recommendation AGAINST Sidewalk look to Geoffrey Fowler’s piece in The Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame).
It’s impressive journalistic independence by Fowler and the WaPo editors. Not the first time WaPo has gone against Amazon, Amazon’s fake problems are bigger than just Microsoft Office
Sidewalk gobbles bandwidth
There are plenty of privacy and data collection issues around Sidewalk.
“…Sidewalk is also a vast new wireless network entirely controlled by Amazon — and paid for by us.” Washington Post
Sure, the connections between devices and Amazon’s servers are well-encrypted, that should be a given.
Just one concern is what Amazon can do with all the new data they’ll be collecting.
We were amazed at the amount of Internet traffic a Sidewalk-enabled device can use. Sidewalk is promoted as ‘low bandwidth’ but according to WaPo, it can use up to 500MB (half a Gigabyte) a month. That’s an awful lot of data for ‘low bandwidth’ service.
While the speed used by Sidewalk is unlikely to affect regular Internet use, 500MB can be a significant chunk of an ISP’s data allowance. Not all Internet plans have unlimited data use.
Turn off Sidewalk
If you have modern Echo or Nest devices, Amazon will turn on Sidewalk unless you stop it. It might be working by the time you read this.
To turn if off, go to your Alexa or Ring app.
Echo – turn off Sidewalk
In the Alexa app go to More | Settings | Account Settings | Amazon Sidewalk, the ‘Enabled’ option can be switched to OFF.
Ring – turn off Sidewalk
In the Ring app, look for the Menu icon (three bars at top left) | Control Center | Amazon Sidewalk.
For both Alexa/Echo and Ring, the one setting should apply to all your devices. But that wasn’t happening properly. Amazon says the bug is fixed but you might like to check another connected device to make sure they are all Sidewalk disabled.