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Some Amazon devices will share part of your internet with strangers unless you opt out — here's how

Sidewalk launched June 8th in the United States, but here's what you can do if you don't want to take part in the program.

HOUSTON — Amazon's Sidewalk feature has raised concerns about privacy and security because it opens up a part of your home's internet connection to nearby strangers.

Sidewalk automatically launched Tuesday, June 8, in the United States. But many critics say the program should be opt in instead of opt out and that it shouldn't be automatic.

Amazon claims it is secure and that your personal information will not be revealed, but still, many people who have Amazon devices have their concerns and are looking to turn off the function. (If you don't have an Amazon device, you will not be in the Sidewalk program.)

Here's what you need to know:

What Amazon is sharing

The short version: Amazon is looking to extend the range and reliability of its Ring and Echo devices, including security cameras and lights. For instance, if the internet goes out at the home where they are in use, these devices can attempt to connect to a neighbor's internet via the new Sidewalk functionality. It also aims to help tile trackers work better.

Amazon claims to only use a very small portion of your internet bandwidth and says it is not sharing anything from your home PC or network — "The maximum bandwidth of a Sidewalk Bridge to the Sidewalk server is 80Kbps, which is about 1/40th of the bandwidth used to stream a typical high definition video. Today, when you share your Bridge’s connection with Sidewalk, total monthly data used by Sidewalk, per account, is capped at 500MB, which is equivalent to streaming about 10 minutes of high definition video."

Your Amazon devices do this by connecting to your home's internet via Wi-FI. They then create a Bluetooth (BLE) and use the 900 MHz spectrum to create a new wireless signal that is shared with other devices throughout the neighborhood.

How to opt out of / disable Amazon Sidewalk

If you have a Ring device, go to the control center on the app or their website. If you have an Echo device, go to settings in the Alexa app. (Detailed instructions are farther down in this story.)

Know this about disabling, however (From Amazon): "If I disable Amazon Sidewalk, will my Sidewalk Bridges still work? Yes. All of your Sidewalk Bridges will continue to have their original functionality even if you decide to disable Amazon Sidewalk. However, disabling means missing out on Sidewalk’s connectivity and location related benefits. You also will no longer contribute your internet bandwidth to support community extended coverage benefits such as locating pets and valuables with Sidewalk-enabled devices."

Instructions for Alexa app:

  1. Open the Alexa app.
  2. Open More and select Settings.
  3. Select Account Settings.
  4. Select Amazon Sidewalk.
  5. Turn Amazon Sidewalk On or Off for your account.

Instructions for Ring app:

  1. Open the Ring app
  2. Go to Control Center by tapping the three-lined icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen
  3. Select Sidewalk and use the toggle icon to opt out
  4. It will ask you to confirm you opt-out. Users can opt back in the same way.