Cisco: Cloud Connect No Longer Default Setting for Linksys Routers

The move comes as the networking company tries to stem consumer backlash to management and privacy issues raised by the launch of its Cisco Cloud Connect service June 27.

Cisco Systems officials are continuing to try to calm customers still riled up over the automated updates to some of their Linksys wireless routers, most recently by announcing that Cisco Cloud Connect will no longer be the default management tool.

The move follows a week and a half of consumer backlash to Cisco€™s clumsy rollout June 27 of the Cloud Connect service, which raised not only questions about the automated updates to the management tools for the company€™s Linksys Smart WiFi routers, but also security and privacy concerns regarding the initial wording of Cisco€™s privacy policy.

Consumers took to sites like Facebook and Slashdot to express their anger with Cisco. One user on Slashdot argued that they were €œpretty sure that this wasn't a case of mere stupidity, brought on by poor, poor, management's exposure to too many buzzwords. This is a straightforward control grab, an overt attempt to turn a low-margin hardware sale into an ongoing data harvesting and customer lock-in opportunity.€

For their part, Cisco executives have been addressing consumer concerns, and have apologized twice in posts on the Cisco blog from Brett Wingo, vice president and general manager of Cisco€™s Home Networking unit. In a July 5 post, Wingo tried to address issues raised by users and noted that the company itself was the source of much of the confusion.

€œWe 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,€ Wingo wrote. €œWe take responsibility for that lack of clarity, and we are taking steps to make this right.€

Users€™ negative reactions began soon after Cisco Cloud Connect launched July 27. The service is designed to enable consumers to easily connect their multiple mobile devices to their WiFi networks, and to manage those networks remotely via the mobile devices. Cisco officials said the service deals with many of the tasks involved with setting up and connecting devices to the network.

Those users with Linksys EA2700, EA3500 and EA4500 routers soon found that automated updates had been pushed to their hardware, and that rather than being able to log onto the routers as they had been doing and getting access to traditional management tools, they were being brought to a page through which they could sign up for Cisco Cloud Connect.

Consumer angst was heightened when users read over the privacy policy in the terms of service for Cisco Cloud Connect, which stated that Cisco essentially could collect a wide variety of information on users, from their Internet histories to the status of the network to the Connect Cloud-related apps they€™re using. The information was needed to help Cisco better respond to concerns and requests, or improve the service, according to the company.

In addition, the wording appeared to ban users of those routers from going on online for "obscene, pornographic or offensive purposes."

Cisco officials quickly changed the wording in the policy, including removing the part about collecting users€™ Internet histories. In addition, they have also stressed that the company€™s Cloud Connect is an optional service that isn€™t required for using a Linksys EA router, and have simplified the process for opting out of the service.

The default setting was changed back to the traditional router setup and management.

€œIf a customer chooses not to set up a Cisco Connect Cloud account, they can manage their router with the current local management software,€ Cisco€™s Wingo wrote in his blog post.

Those who have signed up for the cloud service and want to return to local management software can do so by contacting the Linksys customer support line at 800-326-7114 or going through the online guide. In addition, software updates will not be pushed to routers where the auto-update service has been switched off.

Wingo also reiterated that Cisco doesn€™t collect Internet usage information through the routers, and that the company won€™t disconnect customers from the Internet based on usage. The only information collected is needed for signing up and support for Cisco Cloud Connect, he said.

€œIf a customer signs up for the Cisco Connect Cloud service, they are asked to provide a new username, a password, and an email address, which is required to set up the account,€ Wingo wrote. €œWhen the customer sets up a Cisco Connect Cloud account, they are asked to provide a local administrative password for the EA Series router to associate it with a Cisco Connect Cloud account. Cisco does not store this local administrative password.€