When Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) upgraded the firmware on some of its Linksys routers to make them, and the networks they run on, manageable through a cloud-based tool, the accompanying Terms of Service were certainly not the usual Yada Yada, to borrow a term from Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)!
Vigilant users, who surprisingly took the pains to read it through, found it had some privacy-threatening clauses that were simply outrageous. This promptly captured the attention of the media and resulted in some pretty negative publicity for Cisco. The outcome: the company had to eat humble pie and do a volte face on the offending language.
Reportedly, the original document informed the user that Cisco could track certain details regarding the customer’s use of the service, and these could include internet history.
Cisco has now offered customers the option to roll back their routers to their previous condition (i.e. before the firmware update) and switch off the update. Certainly a victory for the supporters of online privacy and the opponents of Big Brother-like surveillance of our activities!
Privacy concerns aside, there are other aspects of the Connect Cloud initiative by Cisco that appear to have been handled equally shoddily.
The objectives of the upgrade are rather impressive. It is a platform with a collection of apps designed to work with the company’s EA series of Linksys routers that provide a way for users to manage multiple routers (on separate networks) and control, even remotely, access to content on their networks.
But users have been frustrated to find that they are unable to get the app running and bemoan the lack of proper instructions or support from Cisco. It is suspected that the company may have temporarily suspended the Connect Cloud facility pending resolution of the privacy concerns.
The overall customer dissatisfaction arising from the obviously botched launch of the service drew an apologetic blog post from Brett Wingo, the general manager of Cisco’s Home Networking Business Unit.
Here are some clarifications he offered:
“When a customer signs up for a Cisco Connect Cloud account, personal information is used only to establish an account in order to provide customer support. Consistent with Cisco’s practices, Cisco Connect Cloud does not actively track, collect or store personal info or usage data for any other purposes, nor is it transmitted to third parties”………….
“Cisco Connect Cloud was delivered only to consumers who opted in to automatic updates. However, we apologize that the opt-out process for Cisco Connect Cloud and automatic updates was not more clear in this product release, and we are developing an updated version that will improve this process.”
In the net analysis, it appears that a rather useful service that was full of possibilities created a negative mind-set in consumers due to inadequate preparation before its launch.