Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cisco Apologizes for “Lack of Clarity” in Linksys Privacy Mess

It’s amazing how much trouble a little inattention to a document that most people tend to ignore can cause. Cisco Systems, the world’s largest maker of networking gear, has been forced to apologize to customers of its Linksys consumer division after a ham-handed launch of a new cloud service that included creepy language in its terms of service.

In a company blog post, Cisco’s Brett Wingo, the VP and general manager of Cisco Home Networking, said that it was a “lack of clarity” in the terms-of-service agreement that got customers irate.

Actually, it was pretty clear: Included was a paragraph that specifically said that Cisco would keep track of a user’s Internet history as part of their use of Cisco Cloud Connect, a new Web-based service for managing their Linksys routers and home-networking gear. But, whatever.

Wingo goes on to say that the Cisco Cloud Connect service is optional, and not required, that Cisco doesn’t use the service to track Web-usage information, and that Cisco won’t arbitrarily cut customers off from the service based on their Internet use.

Sadly, Cisco is once again showing that it’s not a consumer company at its heart, and clearly hadn’t planned how to launch this. The reactions it has been getting are about as negative as any I’ve seen. Most consumers are relatively ambivalent about the brand of router they choose at home, and now, through a combination of bad publicity, uncertainty and doubt, Linksys, for the moment, appears to be the brand they can easily single out as the one not to buy.

Cisco acquired Linksys for $500 million way back in 2003, when it had vague notions of expanding its reach into the consumer space. We all know how that turned out.

Yet even as Cisco has recently bolted from consumer video products like the Flip camera and the ümi home-telepresence system, Linksys perseveres as Cisco’s one remaining presence on the consumer scene. After nearly a decade of owning it, you’d think Cisco would know the difference between the right way and the wrong way to launch a major new service.

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