Linksys and the cloud snafu

A new trend in management of gateways and routers is to use the cloud. Currently, gateways and routers are locally managed by the user, and often remotely managed by the operator through protocols such as TR69.    The new trend delocalizes the device management to the cloud.   In other words, to modify the router/gateway, you have to use a remote service.  Most manufacturers, if not all, are following this path.

Last month, Cisco launched its Cisco cloud connect service that offers this capability.  For that purpose, Cisco has to install new firmware into deployed Linksys routers.  Cisco launched such update. Thus, many customers who had opt-in the automatic firmware upgrade (which, by the way, is usually a smart decision) where automatically upgraded loosing the local ability to manage their device.   This automatic upgrade started a huge rumpus on the forums; many people having the feeling that loosing the local management was equivalent to lose the ownership of their router.  This was the first issue.  Many people believed that this upgrade would be systematic for every Linksys router.

Unfortunately, inside the Terms Of Services (TOS) of Cisco Cloud Connect, it was mentioned that Cisco might keep track of a variety of information including Internet history and might share “aggregated and anonymous user experience information” with service providers and other third parties.  This second issue was even more devastating for Cisco.

Cisco quickly reacted and took a set of appropriate actions:

  • Explaining that the upgrade was done only if the customer requests it or if he opted-in of automatically upgrading.  Cisco provided a method to revert to local management,
  • Modifying the TOS to remove the section related to collection of data such as Internet history,
  • And highlighting that Cisco does not use the routers to collect information about Internet usage.

Lessons:

  • Full remote management of a user owned device may be adversely perceived.   Hardware ownership is strongly connoted of control.
  • Privacy is important for some people and not necessarily rationale.   Privacy’s perception is complex.  How many of the people who complained regularly use Google (or whatever search engine) and click on the proposed link leaving a trace of their Internet usage to Google?    An interesting sociological study to do;  Privacy is a touchy complex topic.
  • There are some people who carefully read TOS!!!

 

Thanks to RG for the initial pointer.

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