Cisco backpedals on forced spyware cloud service

your router is watching youOver the past week, Cisco issued a firmware update to its Linksys Smart Wi-Fi router line that attempted to force users into its new cloud service. And this was one of those updates that you can’t deny, otherwise you’d find yourself with a bricked device.

Having the option to update or not to update taken away is one thing, but it’s another entirely when you understand the function of this cloud service Cisco is “offering.” The application, called Cisco Connect Cloud, is built in part to monitor users’ computer and Internet activity. It obviously does some other things to, like provide off site access to your home network and offer apps like Parental Control, Media Prioritization, and Guest Access. But there’s still that whole monitoring your Internet usage thing.

The Cisco Connect Cloud’s terms of service also had some pretty interesting language spelling out what you can and can’t use it for – in short, no funny business… i.e. porn and illegal downloading:

“You agree not to use or permit use of the Service: (i) to invade another’s privacy; (ii) for obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes; (iii) to infringe on another’s rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights; (iv) to upload, email or otherwise transmit or make available any unsoliciated or unauthorized advertising, promotional materials, spam, junk mail or any other form of solicitation; (v) to transmit or otherwise make available any code or virus, or perform any activity, that could harm or interfere with any device, software, network or service (including this Service); or (vi) to violate, or encourage any conduct that would violate any applicable law or regulation or give rise to civil or criminal liability.”

This, combined with the since removed portion of the newly updated Cisco privacy policy that (before being yanked) explained the company would be monitoring network traffic and Internet history have been enough to incite user outrage. Fortunately, that user outrage has been enough to cause some serious backpedaling on Cisco’s part, including a tail-between-the-legs blog post.

“We also wanted to clear up any confusion about Cisco’s ‘opt in’ practices. Cisco Connect Cloud was delivered only to consumers who opted in to automatic updates,” the post reads. “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.

Cisco has also provided instructions on how you can roll back your router’s firmware so that if you were unlucky enough to go through the forced update, there is a fix.