Amazon Sidewalk to Activate Today so Here’s How to Opt-Out

By Bill Toulas / June 8, 2021

All Amazon IoTs are going to be automatically enrolled into "Amazon Sidewalk," the company's experimental mesh network today, essentially opening up people’s Wi-Fi networks to be shared among the participants. According to Amazon, the purpose is to help track Tiles and enable Amazon smart devices to operate even when they are out of their home network range. The company has published a comprehensive whitepaper to explain how this will work, what security precautions are in place, and how people’s privacy is secured.

If Amazon’s assurances aren’t convincing you, or if you simply don’t want to take part in the Sidewalk project, you have to specifically set your device to be excluded from the experiment. To do this on the Echo, go to the Alexa app, select Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Disabled. On the Ring app, go to Control Center > Amazon Sidewalk > Disabled > Confirm. Just out of precaution, you should return to these settings regularly to see that nothing has been changed automatically without asking you, which is always a possibility.

The devices that will be automatically enrolled on “Sidewalk” today include the following:

The main issue here is turning this experiment to "on" by default, which is a practice that guarantees the automatic enrollment of a large number of people who don’t fiddle with the settings of their device. Opting out is a lot less likely than opting in, and Amazon knows that. Officially, the firm explains that they decided to go with the more aggressive choice in order to make it easy for customers to take advantage of the benefits that come with Sidewalk.

The truth is somewhere in the middle, as always. If you already own IoTs from Amazon, chances are that you’re not worried about any additional privacy risks that arise from Sidewalk. What users really need to be careful with is what apps they’re using, as various third-party developers will soon use Sidewalk for their own purposes, and it’s unclear how strict Amazon will be in the enforcement of a privacy policy context.

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