Cisco Issues Second Apology For Linksys/Connect Cloud Fiasco


It's been a week and a half since automatic firmware updates to Cisco's Linksys Wi-Fi routers sparked user security concerns, and Cisco is for the second time on the mea culpa trail.

Cisco's Connect Cloud service went live June 27, intended as a way for consumers to connect various mobile devices to a Wi-Fi network and manage networks using the devices. Cisco positioned it as a way to eliminate the hassle of setting up wireless networks in the home for the devices users want to connect -- and manage the routers remotely.

When the relevant Cisco firmware update came out, users of Linksys EA3500, EA2700 and EA4500 routers were pushed to a sign-up page for Cisco Connect Cloud instead of the usual password log-in. What sparked the backlash was Cisco Connect Cloud's terms of service, specifically a segment of the terms that read:

"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 …"

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As reported by ExtremeTech and other news sources, that paragraph was subsequently removed from Cisco Cloud Connect's "supplemental privacy policy" following June 27 .

But in the past week, users took to social media platforms such as Facebook and content aggregation sites such as Slashdot to voice their concerns over Cisco's control of user data.

"They're throwing away their credibility with professional users -- you know, the ones who buy the expensive Cisco gear that generates most of their profits -- so they can grab a few quick bucks by data-mining the consumer market," wrote one irate Slashdot contributor, JDG1980, on June 29.

Cisco, San Jose, Calif., has twice now formally responded to the Linksys router and Cisco Cloud Connect complaints in a pair of blog posts, dated June 29 and July 5, by Brett Wingo, vice president and general manager, Cisco Home Networking.

"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," Wingo wrote Thursday. "We take responsibility for that lack of clarity and we are taking steps to make this right."

Wingo indicated in the July 5 post that Linksys customers are not required to sign up for Cisco Connect Cloud, can opt out of signing up for an account, and can continue to set up and manage Linksys routers without a Cisco Connect Cloud account.

"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 setup and management," Wingo wrote.

Wingo also stated that Cisco Linksys routers "are not used to collect information about Internet usage" and that "Cisco only retains information that is necessary to sign up for and support the Cisco Connect Cloud service."

Cisco closed off the comments section to both of Wingo's posts.

PUBLISHED JULY 6, 2012