Cisco this week learned that there are limits to how far consumers will allow the cloud to reach into their lives.
A recent automatic firmware update to the company's Linksys EA series of Wi-Fi home routers set off a firestorm of criticism among IT circles. Whereas most vendors issue automatic updates to fix bugs, improve performance and/or enhance security, Cisco went against the norm and transitioned the router's management dashboard to its Cisco Connect Cloud service by default.
Many customers were not pleased and they lit up Cisco's support forums to voice their disapproval.
Instead of pointing their browsers to 192.168.1.1 and making the customary configuration changes, users were greeting by a Cisco Connect Cloud sign up. Even if was a well-intentioned way of expanding the router's management capabilities -- Cisco Connect Cloud allows users to manage their home networks over the cloud, among other features -- several customers viewed it as a blatant overreach by Cisco.
Privacy concerns quickly surfaced. According to Cisco Cloud Connect's terms of service (since changed) users must agree to not use the service to transfer pornographic materials or infringe on copyrights.
Provisions against porn and piracy are par for the course for online services, but users quickly pounced on terms that had the potential to impact how they use their networks behind closed doors. Nebulous usage statistics sharing and data gathering terms didn't help matters.
The overwhelmingly negative reaction to the update prompted Cisco to change course.
In a blog post, Brett Wingo, vice president and general manager of Cisco Home Networking, made some assurances that customer privacy was never at risk. "Cisco’s Linksys routers do not track or store any personal information regarding customers' use of the Internet," he writes, adding that the same applies to Cisco Connect Cloud.
Going forward, Connect Cloud will be completely optional. "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," says Wingo.
As for those that inadvertently downloaded and applied the update, Cisco provides a guide for downgrading to the classic management interface.