How To Turn Off Sidewalk on Alexa (and Why You Should)

Nearly two years ago, Amazon launched its criticized Sidewalk feature by opting-in all eligible Alexa users, but what is this feature and are you still connected?
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In 2021, Amazon introduced a new feature called Amazon Sidewalk. This was intended as a way to create a blanket wireless network that extends far beyond the confines of your own router. And when Amazon launched Sidewalk, it automatically opted most devices into the program.

By using certain Sidewalk-enabled devices like Echo smart speakers and Ring cameras as bridges, Amazon can grab your home Wi-Fi and mesh it with other Sidewalk users’ Wi-Fi. This allows devices to work even while away from your home network.

Sidewalk sounds both creative and scary and there are pros and cons to leaving the service turned on. If you aren’t keen on the service, we’ve laid out ways to opt out of Sidewalk. If you do want to use Sidewalk, keep reading for tips to secure your network.

In this article
Why should you turn off Amazon Sidewalk?
What devices use Amazon Sidewalk?
How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk
How to secure Amazon Sidewalk if you can’t turn it off
Amazon Sidewalk FAQs
Bottom line

Why should you turn off Amazon Sidewalk?

The idea behind Amazon Sidewalk is a good one. Amazon wants to create an interconnected mesh network where devices are functional whether you’re inside near a router or out on the, well, sidewalk. This means your elderly neighbor wearing a CareBand can be tracked far from their home. It also allows for your internet to continue working by borrowing from other Sidewalk users if the connection drops suddenly. Amazon also has a partnership with Tile to track devices further using Sidewalk’s technology.

However, with a continued rise in cybersecurity threats, you may not want to be part of this experiment. Even without the cybersecurity concerns, you may not want to share your internet bandwidth with others, especially if you’re on a metered connection. Whatever your reasons, you may want to turn off Amazon Sidewalk unless you’re completely comfortable with all aspects of it, including securing your smart home devices.

Common concerns associated with using Amazon Sidewalk include but aren’t limited to:

Up to 500 MB of data use monthly

While Amazon claims the maximum amount of bandwidth exchanged between the bridge and the server is around 80 Kbps, it can claim as much as 500 MB of data each month. If your internet is unlimited, this may not be a problem, but if you have a metered connection you could be donating a hefty amount to Amazon’s program.

Opening your Wi-Fi connection to potential hackers

Personal Wi-Fi tends to be safer than public Wi-Fi because you’re in control of your security with unique passwords and the ability to hide your network. It’s even easy to tell if someone is using your Wi-Fi at home.

Amazon claims hackers can’t get through its security measures, but things we can be certain of are death, taxes, and the ability to hack anything connected to the internet. Opening these channels to more connections can leave your Wi-Fi vulnerable.

Giving stalkers a wider range

Tile paired with Amazon Sidewalk in an effort to give Apple AirTags some competition. But these little tracking devices aren’t always used to find lost luggage or locate your car keys. Tile trackers can easily be slipped into a purse or backpack, allowing stalkers a wider area to track potential victims.

Creating a blanket surveillance network

Amazon devices like Ring can help keep your property safe and record activity that you normally wouldn’t see, but Amazon has a history of shady data practices[1].

From handing over data to police without consent from the device owner to poor internal data hygiene practices, Amazon likes to lurk but isn’t too keen on discretion when it comes to your personal information.

What devices use Amazon Sidewalk?

Amazon uses several of its proprietary devices like Amazon Echo and Ring to act as Sidewalk bridges. Each of these devices makes it possible to take Wi-Fi from and share Wi-Fi with other Sidewalk-enabled bridge devices.

Amazon Sidewalk devices

Device Generation
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 Flex All generations
Echo Input All generations
Echo Plus All generations
Echo Show 2nd gen and newer
Echo Spot All generations
Ring Floodlight Cam 2019
Ring Spotlight Cam wired 2019
Ring Spotlight Cam mount 2019

Devices that use the boosted Sidewalk signal but do not transmit a signal themselves are:

  • Tile trackers
  • Level smart locks
  • CareBands

How to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk

If Amazon Sidewalk doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it’s easy to toggle it off. The entire process takes less than 30 seconds, and Amazon won’t bother you about turning it back on. You can turn Sidewalk off in the Alexa app or you can manage individual devices through your Amazon account. Here’s how to turn off Sidewalk on each of these platforms.

In your Amazon account

  1. Log into Amazon, then go to your account page.
  2. Once there, go to Account Settings > Manage Content and Devices.
  3. From there you’ll be able to manage each individual device associated with your account. Click on each device and disable Sidewalk. This is also where you can deactivate any Amazon Alexa-enabled device, like an Echo or Echo Show, that you may no longer want to use.

You can opt out of Amazon Sidewalk in your Amazon app — look for the Manage content and devices setting.

Callout box: Always make sure to deactivate any device and reset it to factory settings before reselling or returning it.

In the Alexa app

  1. To disable Sidewalk within the Alexa app, open the app on your device.
  2. Go to More > Settings > Account Settings > Sidewalk and then choose Disable. This disables Sidewalk across your entire account, including any Echo and Tile devices.

You can turn off Amazon Sidewalk in the Alexa app by going to your Settings and disabling it.

In the Ring app

If you want to toggle Sidewalk off in just the Ring app but not the rest of your Amazon devices, you can do that through the Ring app itself.

  1. Open the Ring app and click on the three lines in the upper left corner.
  2. Go to Control Center > Amazon Sidewalk. From there you can disable Sidewalk. Make sure you accept the settings before exiting to ensure Sidewalk is off.

You can turn off Amazon Sidewalk in the Ring app by going to your Control Center and disabling it.

How to secure Amazon Sidewalk if you can’t turn it off

If you like the idea of Amazon’s interconnected mesh Wi-Fi experiment and you’d like to use the service and offer your own bandwidth up as well, you can take steps to make sure your home network is secure.

There are benefits to using Sidewalk, including CareBands that help track older people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s if they wander. Maybe you want to make sure your security devices always stay connected even if your internet connection is faulty. Whatever your reason, if you want to continue using Sidewalk, here are some steps for securing your Wi-Fi network.

Change your router’s default name and password

Each router brand has a different method for changing the default name and password. A quick internet search with the question “How do I change my [BRAND AND MODEL OF ROUTER]’s name and password” should give you information on your specific device. Make sure you also choose a strong and secure password that’s difficult to guess.

Encrypt your traffic through your router

You can usually set your Wi-Fi encryption level within your router’s app or on its website. If you see WPA2, that’s what you need. WPA/WPA2 also works, but WPA2 is the most recent and, therefore, most effective form of encryption.

Using WPA2 encryption on your Wi-Fi network ensures you have the best security.

Use a VPN

Make sure to route your home network traffic through a virtual private network (VPN). Some VPNs may not offer apps specifically for your Amazon devices, but there’s still a way to protect them with a VPN. To protect all of your Amazon devices, look for a VPN option like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, or Surfshark to install on your router.

Turn off name broadcasting

Name broadcasting allows your network to be discoverable by those around you. It’s a good idea to remove your Wi-Fi name from local lists of discoverable networks. Again, because routers are so vast and specific, we recommend searching for how to do this on your individual device.

Use a firewall

If your router has a built-in firewall, make sure it’s enabled. If you don’t have a built-in firewall, consider purchasing a router with security features like Netgear or TP-Link.

Keep your router’s software up-to-date

Routers have security flaws just like other devices. Keeping your software updated will make sure you have the latest and most secure version protecting your data.

Use cybersecurity software

Having one of the best kinds of cybersecurity software installed on your computers — and even your router — can make sure your network catches any potential threats before they attack your devices.

Amazon Sidewalk FAQs


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Is Amazon Sidewalk a security risk?

Amazon Sidewalk may be a security risk. In 2018, Amazon was forced to testify along with other tech executives as to their shady data protection policies. In regard to customer data and sensitive information, Amazon itself was described by its own Chief Information Security Officer as a “free-for-all” of internal access.

In addition to that, Amazon recently expanded its network to even more third-party developers, which means your data may be accessible to a greater network of companies with their own privacy policies.


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Can Amazon Sidewalk be hacked?

In theory, yes, Sidewalk can be hacked. By hacking a router or an individual Alexa device, cybercriminals could also hack Sidewalk.


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Is Amazon Sidewalk enabled by default?

Yes, Amazon Sidewalk is enabled by default and you have to manually disable it. You can do this either on each individual device via your Amazon account or your Ring app. Otherwise, you can log into your Alexa app and disable the service across all devices.

Bottom line

Whether you’re interested in the applications of Amazon Sidewalk or thoroughly creeped out by it, there’s always the option to disable the feature.

Amazon does make it easy to disable and customize your Sidewalk participation depending on your preferences. It also, thankfully, doesn’t bother you by continuing to request you use Sidewalk. In the two years we’ve had Amazon devices, we’ve never been prompted to enable the Sidewalk feature after turning it off the day it launched.

Whatever your reason for wanting to opt out of Amazon Sidewalk, it’s completely valid. In addition to disabling the feature, consider updating your other security settings. We’re interconnected enough without the unsettling idea that a stranger may be in your private internet connection. It’s your internet, you get to decide who uses it.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.

Citations

[1] Amazon's Dark Secret: It Has Failed to Protect Your Data