Today, Tuesday, Amazon Sidewalk begins operation. Amazon has made this automatic for all users of its Alexa, Echo and Ring devices and services; you'll have to deliberately opt out if you don't want part of your wireless Internet connection to be made available to others. Sidewalk will probably be applied to other Amazon devices and services in future.
Amazon is very circumspect about acknowledging that Sidewalk actually commandeers part of your Internet connection. Its question and answer section never addresses this directly:
What is Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk is a shared network that helps devices work better. Operated by Amazon at no charge to customers, Sidewalk can help simplify new device setup, extend the low-bandwidth working range of devices to help find pets or valuables with Tile trackers, and help devices stay online even if they are outside the range of their home wifi. In the future, Sidewalk will support a range of experiences from using Sidewalk-enabled devices, such as smart security and lighting and diagnostics for appliances and tools.
Why should I participate in Amazon Sidewalk?
Amazon Sidewalk helps your devices get connected and stay connected. For example, if your Echo device loses its wifi connection, Sidewalk can simplify reconnecting to your router. 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 wifi 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. Amazon does not charge any fees to join Sidewalk.
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.
There's more at the link.
As far as I'm concerned, I see no reason to allow anyone to commandeer part of my Internet service, at my expense and without asking my permission, for their own commercial gain. Some believe there are other potential hazards.
Sidewalk raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?
I recommend you opt out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.
Again, more at the link. The Attorney General of Connecticut (quoted in that article) has also raised red flags about Sidewalk.
There are instructions about how to opt out of Sidewalk at this link. I highly recommend you do so.
The most annoying thing about Sidewalk, from a consumer privacy point of view, is that Amazon never asked whether we wanted it, or wanted our private Internet connection to be made available to it. It simply designed the product without our input, and is implementing it - and taking part of our Internet connections - without our permission. We're being treated like mindless morons.