Brett Wingo, the VP and general manager of Cisco Home Networking, posted a blog Thursday night apologizing for a "lack of clarity" in the terms-of-service agreement that accompanied a recent firmware upgrade to several higher-end Linksys routers.
The story actually began last week. Cisco released a firmware upgrade that ultimately connected to a new service called Cisco Cloud Connect. Typically routers are managed via a web browser or an installed application on a machine connected to the local network. However this new service pushed all router controls into the cloud. The company had previously talked about shifting over to the new service, but didn't actually formally announce it, thus surprising customers who automatically installed the new firmware.
Although customers reportedly found this forced cloud service use a little annoying, the real outrage came after reading the terms-of-service agreement for Cisco Cloud Connect:
When you use the Service, we may keep track of certain information related to your use of the Service, including but not limited to the status and health of your network and networked products; which apps relating to the Service you are using; which features you are using within the Service infrastructure; network traffic (e.g., megabytes per hour); Internet history; how frequently you encounter errors on the Service system and other related information ("Other Information"). We use this Other Information to help us quickly and efficiently respond to inquiries and requests, and to enhance or administer our overall Service for our customers.
The negative feedback Cisco received from Linksys customers was so great that the company was forced to not only revise the TOS language (see below), but offer instructions on how customers can roll the routers' firmware back to the previous version, and disable automatic upgrades.
Now back to the present.
"Since my last blog post, we’ve continued to receive questions about the service, privacy, and in particular the service terms of Cisco Connect Cloud," Wingo said in the apology posted Thursday night. "We believe lack of clarity in our own terms of service has contributed to many of our customers’ concerns, and we apologize for the confusion and inconvenience this has caused. We take responsibility for that lack of clarity, and we are taking steps to make this right."
To summarize, he made six points:
(1) Linksys customers are not required to sign-up for the Cisco Connect Cloud service and they are able to opt-out of signing up for an account.
(2) Customers can set-up and manage their Linksys router without signing up for a Cisco Connect Cloud account.
(3) Cisco will not arbitrarily disconnect customers from the Cisco Connect Cloud service based on how they are using the Internet.
(4) Cisco Linksys routers are not used to collect information about Internet usage.
(5) Cisco only retains information that is necessary to sign up for and support the Cisco Connect Cloud service.
(6) Cisco will not push software updates to customers’ Linksys routers when the auto-update setting is turned off.
"In response to our customers’ concerns, we have simplified the process for opting-out of the Cisco Connect Cloud service and have changed the default setting back to traditional router set-up and management," he added.