Amazon has a new wireless network called Sidewalk that launched Tuesday, but the service is being enabled to automatically connect in Echo and Ring devices dating back to 2018.
Sidewalk shares part of your internet connection with your neighbors to create a new, larger network. It’s controlled by Amazon and the user has no control over what type of data is shared, raising security and surveillance concerns.
Amazon says the service pools together bandwidth from different users to allow its devices — and others — to “work better at home and beyond the front door.” The company says the purpose is to create a larger, yet low-bandwidth, shared network.
“For example, if your Echo device loses its Wi-Fi connection, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router,” Amazon said. “For select Ring devices, you can continue to receive motion alerts from your Ring Security Cams and customer support can still troubleshoot problems even if your devices lose their Wi-Fi connection. Sidewalk can also extend the working range for your Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as Ring smart lights, pet locators or smart locks, so they can stay connected and continue to work over longer distances.”
The service was also designed with “multiple layers of encryption” to protect the privacy of Sidewalk users, according to Amazon.
The Sidewalk service is supported by the following Bridge devices:
- Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)
- Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)
- Echo (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot for Kids (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Dot with Clock (3rd gen and newer)
- Echo Plus (all generations)
- Echo Show (all models and generations)
- Echo Spot
- Echo Studio
- Echo Input
- Echo Flex
Amazon is also not currently charging any fees to customers who partake in Sidewalk.
Even still, the idea of sharing a bit of bandwidth might rub some customers the wrong way, so Amazon is allowing users to opt out.
To do so, Echo users will need to update their preferences in the Alexa app by choosing Settings, Account Settings, Amazon Sidewalk, and then selecting “off” to disable the service. Ring customers can opt out in the Ring app by choosing Control Center, Sidewalk, and then tapping a slider button.
Upon disabling Sidewalk, Bridge devices will still retain their “original functionality,” Amazon confirmed.