Owners of Cisco/Linksys home routers got a nasty shock this week, when their devices automatically downloaded a new operating system, which locked out device owners. After the update, the only way to reconfigure your router was to create an account on Cisco's "cloud" service, signing up to a service agreement that gives Cisco the right to spy on your Internet use and sell its findings, and also gives them the right to disconnect you (and lock you out of your router) whenever they feel like it.
They say that "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product." But increasingly, even if you do pay for the product, you're still the product, and you aren't allowed to own anything. Ownership is a right reserved to synthetic corporate persons, and off-limits to us poor meat-humans.
Joel Hruska from ExtremeTech reports:
This is nothing but a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of cloud computing, and it comes at a price. The Terms and Conditions of using the Cisco Connect Cloud state that Cisco may unilaterally shut down your account if finds that you have used the service for "obscene, pornographic, or offensive purposes, to infringe another's rights, including but not limited to any intellectual property rights, or… to violate, or encourage any conduct that would violate any applicable law or regulation or give rise to civil or criminal liability."
It then continues "we reserve the right to take such action as we (i) deem necessary or (ii) are otherwise required to take by a third party or court of competent jurisdiction, in each case in relation to your access or use or misuse of such content or data. Such action may include, without limitation, discontinuing your use of the Service immediately without prior notice to you, and without refund or compensation to you."
Since the Service is the only way to access your router, killing one would effectively kill the other.
Oh, and Cisco reserves the right to continue to update your router, even if you set it not to allow automatic updates.
However, the current policy reserves the right to change it back.
The current policy also allows Cisco to discontinue your access to your router if you download pornography, or if someone complains about you, without a court order, evidence or a chance to state your case and face your accuser.
They have also provided users with a way to back out of the "cloud management" "feature."
But, as noted, Cisco still reserves the right to change how your router works, even if you set it not to accept automatic updates.