Richard Stallman accuses Ubuntu of spying on users

The joy of open-source software is that, if you're so inclined, you can go through it and ensure everything is as private as you'd like it. Linux has always been that symbol of open-source gone big; an entire operating system you can rebuild and modify to your hearts content without any big corporations in the background... or has it?

It just so happens that Ubuntu might now be an issue for the world of open-source. Yes, the most popular Linux distribution could also be the one spying on you. Maybe. When searching your own local files on the Ubuntu desktop, the OS sends that string of code to Canonical's servers. Canonical, for those who might not know, are the company behind Ubuntu.

Canonical passes these strings on to Amazon, keeping them unidentifiable. To some, it is still unacceptable for the OS to do so. It is possible to turn this bugbear off, but it comes on by default, and Canonical presumably expects users to overlook its presence.

Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation in particular is fighting Canonical's actions; he believes that if Canonical used this revenue for development of free software, it would still not be sufficient. Should enough people continue to promote Ubuntu, Canonical might just get away with flipping the bird to everything open-source software stands for.

With numerous operating systems, including Elementary and Linux Mint, being built off the Ubuntu base, it should be interesting to see how many of them strip this surveillance functionality.

The FSF considers free software a social movement, and it is to be expected that they stand against such actions. The Linux Slashdot forum has offered some alternatives to how Canonical currently is packing the functionality into the OS. The cleanest solution suggested is a prompt when installing - do you want to allow Ubuntu to gather anonymous information?

Source: Free Software Foundation | Image via Sagar's Linux Tweaks
Thanks to Neowin reader Max Norris for the tip!

 

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it's not about what people using ubuntu (or anything else) have to hide, it's about the fact that every major operating system is most likely doing this. just as are smartphones, fridges, isp's, you name it. but hey, its fun and at least you have the excuse to fake everything as much as possible. in the end, what matters really?

So.. I am hearing a lot of complaints on ubuntu, so where are the solutions to disable it now?

I recall there was an option somewhere under ubuntu 12.10 that allowed me to disable using amazon background search. but is that all there is to it? or is there more? does it require us to recompile some code?

I am using Xubuntu 12.10 (Xfce), and I am not seeing amazon search results, does that mean I am free and clear?

ThunderRiver said,
So.. I am hearing a lot of complaints on ubuntu, so where are the solutions to disable it now?

I recall there was an option somewhere under ubuntu 12.10 that allowed me to disable using amazon background search. but is that all there is to it? or is there more? does it require us to recompile some code?

I am using Xubuntu 12.10 (Xfce), and I am not seeing amazon search results, does that mean I am free and clear?

Queries are sent only when using Unity, and only if you have the Amazon lens installed (which you have by default). Uninstall the Amazon lens and the problem is solved.

Wouldn't windows 8 do the same thing if you had installed the amazon app and searched for something? Of course, in that case it was your own actions that led to queries being sent to Amazon.

XerXis said,
Wouldn't windows 8 do the same thing if you had installed the amazon app and searched for something? Of course, in that case it was your own actions that led to queries being sent to Amazon.

And before downloading the app you get a message telling you what information will become accessible to Amazon upon downloading. And not some long wall of text but a few pointers so people actually know what they are agreeing with.

Ronnet said,

And before downloading the app you get a message telling you what information will become accessible to Amazon upon downloading. And not some long wall of text but a few pointers so people actually know what they are agreeing with.

Android does it much more concisely, and we all know how much attention people pay to that.

Or maybe it's because of ubuntu's cloud storage system which I would presume using amazon's EC2 systems?

Canonical might just get away with flipping the bird to everything open-source software stands for

This line stands out to me. In what way? Open source fundamentals don't go into this issue at all. I suppose you could reword this as, "flipping the bird to much of what many open-source software proponents feel entitled to", but that's about it?

You can disagree with Stallman's ideas, but you can't disagree with his intentions. Software wise he is the only coherent critic and theorist.

JhonKaBrohamski said,
If you're a smart enough linux user, you could probably just remove this "feature" anyway.
which you can. it isnt a big deal tho.

Jesus, kinda bad and sucks... Guess my amazon search's might start showing up flashlights, and but plugs from now on heh.

Stallman's living in some other world as always, though I'm glad this increasing stupidity has not gone unnoticed by the god of free. Linux hipocrisy - free my ass when big companies are sponsoring the development and then adding those costs to the products they make and we all buy.

Phouchg said,
Linux hipocrisy - free my ass when big companies are sponsoring the development and then adding those costs to the products they make and we all buy.

/facepalm

ichi said,

/double facepalm

Corporate support has nothing to do with Linux being free, and free has nothing to do with prices or costs. It's about the license.


So said the god of free(dom), and everyone is clucking after him, as if this freedom means something to consumers, which is exactly the segment it is ever failing to dent, and Ubuntu is targeted at. I'm sorry, no consumer cares of the stupid licence in the slightest - as long as it just works. It actually annoys the hell out of me, because this promoted freedom has succeded in only promoting selfishness, irresponsibility and chaos, and as such is continuously detrimental to the image of what might otherwise be an inherently more well-rounded product than anything else, proprietary or otherwise.
The only thing that matters to consumers is gratis, free beer. Which it appears to be, but isn't.

Phouchg said,

So said the god of free(dom), and everyone is clucking after him, as if this freedom means something to consumers, which is exactly the segment it is ever failing to dent, and Ubuntu is targeted at. I'm sorry, no consumer cares of the stupid licence in the slightest - as long as it just works. It actually annoys the hell out of me, because this promoted freedom has succeded in only promoting selfishness, irresponsibility and chaos, and as such is continuously detrimental to the image of what might otherwise be an inherently more well-rounded product than anything else, proprietary or otherwise.
The only thing that matters to consumers is gratis, free beer. Which it appears to be, but isn't.

Most users don't care about the license, indeed. Heck, lots of them don't seem to have any issues with pirating any piece of software they want.

That doesn't mean that the license is not relevant. Eg. it's because of that license that you can choose to run a fine server OS like RedHat with a support contract or go with the same OS for free under the CentOS name.

"With numerous operating systems, including Elementary and Linux Mint, being built off the Ubuntu base, it should be interesting to see how many of them strip this surveillance functionality."

/facepalm

GS:mac

Glassed Silver said,
"With numerous operating systems, including Elementary and Linux Mint, being built off the Ubuntu base, it should be interesting to see how many of them strip this surveillance functionality."

/facepalm

GS:mac


Thanks for your reply. I read that and thought - now here's something I didn't know.

NyaR said,

Thanks for your reply. I read that and thought - now here's something I didn't know.

I'll explain myself a bit then:
These distributions usually (especially the ones given as examples) don't use the Unity GUI, so they mostly don't even incorporate the same search engine.
Elementary for example doesn't send jackshi* to Canonical.

Amazon suggestions have been the reason for the submission of your queries, with AMZN suggestions missing in any distro known to me apart from vanilla Ubuntu, I'm going to go out on a limb here and claim that nothing is sent from alternative distros.

GS:ios

Imagine the pitchforks and fires if Microsoft was doing something like this...

Google still does this similar things with Android and Chrome browser BTW, and they also get a 'pass' that Microsoft or Apple would NEVER get in the media.

Hahaiah said,
It doesn't HAVE to sell out and it doesn't have to be deceptive either.

No doubt, but it figures they would eventually.

thenetavenger said,
Imagine the pitchforks and fires if Microsoft was doing something like this...

Google still does this similar things with Android and Chrome browser BTW, and they also get a 'pass' that Microsoft or Apple would NEVER get in the media.

Another no doubt!!

thenetavenger said,
Imagine the pitchforks and fires if Microsoft was doing something like this...

Google still does this similar things with Android and Chrome browser BTW, and they also get a 'pass' that Microsoft or Apple would NEVER get in the media.

How is this any different from Internet Explorer's "Suggested Sites"? And how about microsoft phoning home about everything a user installs on the machine starting with Windows 8?
http://www.tomshardware.com/ne...m-Kobeissi-SSLv2,17171.html

recursive said,

How is this any different from Internet Explorer's "Suggested Sites"? And how about microsoft phoning home about everything a user installs on the machine starting with Windows 8?
http://www.tomshardware.com/ne...m-Kobeissi-SSLv2,17171.html


Well the only time SmartScreen even comes up is when the publisher is Unknown. So you are comparing a security feature to the OS sending search results to Amazon? Really stretching it there!

Ubuntu is in a difficult position. In order for to become "mainstream" it has to go a bit more commercial. This in turns (understandably) upsets more of the Linux users.

medhunter said,
OMG, I have just started to love the stock Ubuntu Unity......
Does this mean Mint is a go?

sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

There's also a GUI option to disable Unity's online search, but that'll also disable other lens like askubuntu or wikipedia, which you might or might not want.

ichi said,

sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping

There's also a GUI option to disable Unity's online search, but that'll also disable other lens like askubuntu or wikipedia, which you might or might not want.


Terminal is quite quiet and strong.Mission Acomplished
But am I really protected now?
do I need to do more?
I have no problem with Mint .Especially, if I can install full unity on Mint(I know it is weird)

I like Stallman. You can disagree with his ideas but at least he's consistent. Not like many Linux users (including android users) who always talk of open source when they have an xbox at home and an ipod in their pocket.

fenderMarky said,
I like Stallman. You can disagree with his ideas but at least he's consistent. Not like many Linux users (including android users) who always talk of open source when they have an xbox at home and an ipod in their pocket.

He might be consistent, but that's not too difficult when the only thing you do is HATE EVERYTHING. On the other hand, he's by no means productive or constructive.

bviktor said,

He might be consistent, but that's not too difficult when the only thing you do is HATE EVERYTHING. On the other hand, he's by no means productive or constructive.

Besides releasing the GPL licenses he has developed part of the GNU Project software that's used on Linux (eg. coreutils, GNU debugger or Emacs).

That is, he's more productive than any of your average software evangelists.

I like Ubuntu but just wish they would ditch the default ugly purple and brown with something a tad more modern like grey and blues and whites. But as far as spying goes I don't know but that built in amazon stuff is creepy to me.

Luis Mazza said,
I wonder what the f*** people that use something called UBUNTU have to hide...

well I was using 12.04 but the new version won't run..

Luis Mazza said,

I was not exactly making a question, you see?

I don't understand your comment? If you were being sarcastic, they why did a sarcastic reply bother you? If you actually don't understand why people don't want their OS sending usage data to the manufacturer without connect, then you are a strange one.