If you have a new Amazon Echo smart speaker, a Ring Spotlight Cam or a Ring Floodlight Cam, you might want to check your Alexa app settings: Amazon is automatically switching on Sidewalk, a new feature that slices off some of your Wi-Fi bandwidth to create a farther-reaching network for Amazon devices using Bluetooth or 900MHz radio signals to communicate.
Amazon Sidewalk has the potential to increase the range of your smart home devices — making them more reliable at greater distances from your router and other gear — but its privacy and security implications remain largely untested.
While Sidewalk is not live yet, some privacy experts have expressed concerns about the automatic opt-in. Users have reported the switch online, and I myself found Sidewalk to be set to “on” in my Alexa app, despite intentionally not activating it during initial setup.
Amazon has sent emails, like the one below, to at least some users about the rollout. It says Sidewalk won’t be available until later in the year.
“We started notifying existing Echo customers with eligible devices that their devices will be a part of Sidewalk and how they can change their preferences before the feature turns on,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “Customers can update their Amazon Sidewalk preferences during device setup or any time from settings in the Alexa app.”