Cisco faced a consumer-driven backlash over its abrupt decision to update the embedded software on some its home Wi-Fi routers so that customer services were managed through a cloud service over the Internet.
As part of the plan, the firmware found on two of its home router selections -- the EA4500 and the EA2700 -- were tied to the "Cisco Connect Cloud." However, the cloud-based Wi-Fi router management service raised a rapid storm of complaint from customers.
Some of the concerns raised included privacy issues -- such as Cisco's requests for personal data after the firmware update -- whereas others found the small print clauses disconcerting. Questions were raised, and some customers believed the updated terms of service not only barred them from online use aimed at "obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes.", but also potentially monitored what they were up to online.
Over the past week, the company did its best to quell these concerns, but its efforts have not been enough -- until now. In a blog post, Cisco's home VP Brett Wingo has stated that Cisco Connect Cloud will no longer be the default management system for advance router settings. The blog says:
"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."
In a nutshell, customers are now not required to sign up for the service, and can still manage their router through the current local management software. However, this is still some elements of doubt in terms of advanced features management, since the local software -- disc-distributed with the router -- does have its limitations.
Cisco recommends that customers roll their firmware back to the previous version to strip out the cloud function and retain local tools. It was not entirely clear whether the rollback would prevent customers who preferred local consoles to miss out on firmware updates, but the company has told Arstechnica:
"If a customer chooses to use the Embedded Web UI and selects the Auto-Update feature, Cisco will offer them an update. Currently the only update we have is for the Cisco Connect Cloud feature set, but in future, we plan to provide updates for the embedded Web UI feature set specifically.
In other words, a customer will be able to choose an embedded web UI without having to use the cloud system. For those with privacy concerns, the next declaration in the blog post is most important:
"Cisco will not arbitrarily disconnect customers from the Cisco Connect Cloud service based on how they are using the Internet. Cisco Connect Cloud and Cisco Linksys routers do not monitor or store information about how our customers are using the Internet and we do not arbitrarily disconnect customers from the Internet.
The Cisco Connect Cloud service has never monitored customers' Internet usage, nor was it designed to do so, and we will clarify this in an update to the terms of service."
Those that are having trouble switching back can call a support line, and online instructions have been provided.