Electronic Freedom Foundation Criticizes Ubuntu

Nov 01, 2012

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) publishes a blog post critical of the new search feature included in Ubuntu 12.10.

A blog post on the EFF website written by Micah Lee said, “Starting with the latest release of Ubuntu, Dash is also starting to search the Internet for you. While some people find this convenient, others find it a violation of their privacy. Luckily, Ubuntu makes it easy to turn this off.”

The feature can indeed be turned off by removing the “unity-lens-shopping” package, and instructions for doing so are provided within the EFF statement as well as elsewhere online.

However, the EFF also stated, “It’s a major privacy problem if you can’t find things on your own computer without broadcasting what you’re looking for to the world.”

The EFF mentioned that Ubuntu’s Third Party Privacy Policies webpage lists the third parties to which they may send search terms and IP address information, including Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and YouTube. However, the webpage simply refers users to those third parties for clarification on their privacy policies. In other words, the EFF said, “once they give your data away, it’s no longer their problem.”

The post also noted that Canonical has listened to users’ feedback and is working on changes. The EFF said, “These changes are great, but it doesn’t change the fact that users’ search queries automatically get sent to third party companies without giving users a chance to opt-in.”

So, the EFF has outlined a list of policies and features they’d like Ubuntu to incorporate into future versions. These include:

  • Disable “Include online search results” by default. Consider displaying a dialog upon first login that asks if users would like to opt-in.
  • Explain in detail what is done with search queries and IP addresses, for example: how long they are stored and in what circumstances they’re given to third parties.
  • Allow users to users toggle on and off specific online search results.
  • Make sure that you respect your users’ privacy and security.

Related content

  • Linux News
    • Linux Foundation reports Secure Boot solution
    • Ubuntu 12.10
    • Plasma Active 3
    • Android OS Tops
    • Linaro Enterprise
    • Group formed for ARM architecture
    • Android installed on 3 of 4 smartphones
  • The problems with Ubuntu's Amazon results legal notice
  • Ubuntu, Knee-Deep in the Big Muddy
  • Welcome

    If you have browsed the tech news recently, you probably saw a pair of stories about an important open source browser the world knows as Firefox. If it matters to you, I will add that, despite the logo, a Firefox is really not supposed to be a fox at all but is actually a red panda. The news stories? The first was that Firefox just had its ninth birthday. The browser was born when the Mozilla Foundation (remnants of the once great Netscape Communications Corp.) realized its old Mozilla browser was getting too bloated and wanted a fresh start.

  • Editorial

    Dear Linux Magazine Reader,

comments powered by Disqus

Issue 163/2014

Buy this issue as a PDF

Digital Issue: Price $9.99
(incl. VAT)