Do you own an Echo Studio, an Echo Dot, or a Ring Floodlight Cam? If so, Amazon is about to introduce your device to a new type of network it calls Sidewalk, which is meant to help extend the range of its low-bandwidth devices (so that if your network goes down, for example, your Dot can piggyback on your neighbors’), and also to make location devices such as Tile more efficient.
According to Amazon, Sidewalk will use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), the 900MHz spectrum, and other frequencies “to simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices, and help devices stay online and up-to-date even if they are outside the range of home Wi-Fi.” It will do this by essentially sharing the connectivity of your compatible devices with that of your neighbors.
Amazon says that Sidewalk will get switched on this coming June 8th (Tile functionality will be enabled June 14th), and that it plans to automatically opt in all the eligible devices. The company’s published list of devices includes: Ring Floodlight Cam (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019), Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019), Echo (third gen and newer), Echo Dot (third gen and newer), Echo Dot for Kids (third gen and newer), Echo Dot with Clock (third gen and newer), Echo Plus (all generations), Echo Show (all models and generations), Echo Spot, Echo Studio, Echo Input, Echo Flex.
Questions have been raised as to how this could impact the privacy of your data. Amazon has made a white paper available that lays out how customer information is being protected. But if you are still not reassured by this and would rather not participate in Amazon’s good neighbor program — as it were — you can opt out before Sidewalk gets switched on. Here’s how:
USING THE ALEXA APP
- In your Amazon Alexa app, select the “More” icon at the lower right-hand corner of the screen
- Go to “Settings” > “Account Setting” > “Amazon Sidewalk.” (Just a note: if you’re not connected to any Echo or Ring devices, you will probably not see this option.)
- Use the toggle to disable Sidewalk
And that’s it! Opting out will not (according to Amazon) in any way affect the current function of your devices. But if you decide you do want to opt back in, or you want to opt out sometime in the future, you can come back to the “Amazon Sidewalk” page and use the toggle.
Note that in the same page you’ll see a setting for “Community Finding,” which will share the approximate location of the devices connected by Sidewalk in order to make location-dependent items like Tile more accurate. If you want, you can leave Sidewalk active but disable “Community Finding” by selecting the “Community Finding” link at the bottom of the “Amazon Sidewalk” page and then toggling it off.
USING THE RING APP
- In your Ring app, go into your Control Center by tapping the three-lined icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen
- Select “Sidewalk” and use the slide button to opt out
- You’ll be asked to confirm your opt-out. You can opt back in the same way.
One note: A reader wrote to say that, although she had opted out via the Alexa app, when the feature came to the Ring app, she found she had been opted back in again. So if you have both apps — or even if you don’t — you may want to check later to make sure your opt-out has stuck.