Do You Have An Amazon Alexa Or Echo? You’re Part Of Amazon’s Massive ‘Sidewalk’ Mesh Network By Default

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about Tile signing a deal to utilize Amazon’s ‘Sidewalk’ network so that it could better compete agains Apple’s Find My network. At the time I didn’t think it was going to do much for Tile. But it now appears that I might have wrong about that as more details about Amazon’s ‘Sidewalk’ network are starting to surface. And not all of those details are good:

The idea behind is actually really smart–make it possible for smart home devices to serve as a sort of bridge between your WiFi connection and one another. That way, if your Ring doorbell, for example, isn’t located close to your WiFi router, but it happens to near an Echo Dot, it can use Sidewalk to stay connected.

The same is true if your internet connection is down. Your smart devices can connect to other smart devices, even if they aren’t in your home. The big news on this front is that Tile is joining the Sidewalk network on June 14. That means that if you lose a Tile tracker, it can connect to any of the millions of Echo or Ring devices in your neighborhood and send its location back to you.

That’s definitely a nice benefit, but it’s also where things get a little murky from a privacy standpoint. That’s because other people’s devices, like your neighbor’s, can also connect to your network.

Amazon is pretty clear that Sidewalk uses three layers of encryption so that no data is shared between say, someone’s Tile tracker and your network. The signal from the Tile is encrypted all the way back to the Tile app on your iPhone or Android smartphone.

Still, a feature like this seems like the type of thing you’d want some control over. If suddenly my devices are going to start connecting to my neighbor’s WiFi, or theirs to mine, it seems like you’d have to opt-in, right?

Nope.

That’s because Amazon has enabled Sidewalk on every capable device by default. Whether or not you want your device connecting to other devices, or want your neighbors connecting to your WiFi, Amazon went ahead and made Sidewalk opt-out.

I can see why Amazon went this route. It needs all the devices that it can to make ‘Sidewalk’ work. But options like this should be opt-in rather than opt-out. Especially since I don’t exactly trust Amazon with my data. So if this bothers you, here’s how you can opt-out using the Alexa app’s More tab (at the bottom): Settings > Account Settings > Amazon Sidewalk > Enabled.

So this will lead to the inevitable question about whether Apple’s Find My functionality is on by default. From what I recall it isn’t and during the setup process of an iDevice you have to turn it on. But I would love confirmation of that. If you happen to know for sure, drop me a comment or leave a note and let me know.

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