On Richard Stallman and Ubuntu

This is a personal post and does not neccessarily represent the views of Canonical or the Ubuntu community.

Today Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and Free Software Foundation wrote a critical post accusing Ubuntu of shipping spyware (which is referring to the online search capabilities of the Ubuntu dash).

He goes on to suggest “in your Software Freedom Day events, in your FLISOL events, don’t install or recommend Ubuntu. Instead, tell people that Ubuntu is shunned for spying.“.

This is FUD.

When controvosies such as this kick off from time to time about Canonical and/or Ubuntu, my approach has never been to try and convince our critics that they are wrong. My goal is not to turn the unbelievers into worshippers at the church of Ubuntu. My only goal has been to ensure that everyone who participates in the debate trades in facts and not in misinformation and FUD; there is enough misinformation and FUD on the Internet without us all adding to it. :-)

If someone has an accurate set of facts and accurately respresents the topic but is critical about the position…no problem. We can then engage in respectful, accurate debate that will likely enrich all perspectives and ultimately result in better software.

The goal of the dash in Ubuntu has always been to provide a central place in which you can search and find things that are interesting and relavent to you; it is designed to be at the center of your computing experience. Now, this is a big goal, and we are only part-way along the way to achieving it.

Today it is not perfect – we need to improve the accuracy of the results, present the data more effectively, and continue to expand the coverage and capabilities of the data in dash searches. With each new release of Ubuntu we get awesome feedback from our community and users and we strive to refine and iterate on all of these areas so that subsequent releases offer a more and more compelling experience, freely available and sharable for all.

Naturally, privacy is critically important to us in doing this work. In the eight year history of Ubuntu and Canonical we have always put privacy forward as a high priority across the many, many different websites, services, and software that forms the Ubuntu platform and community.

The challenge of course is that privacy is a deeply personal thing and the way in which you define your privacy expectations will likely radically differ from each of your friends, and vice-versa.

With this in mind, just because someone may have differing views to mine on the implementation of privacy in software doesn’t mean they are wrong. Likewise, just because my views may differ to theirs doesn’t mean I am wrong. We are all different and we all manage our information and our expectations around information sharing in different ways.

Just look at Facebook; the privacy debates there have been raging on for years and have encompassed many different views and perspectives ranging from “I want to control every detail of my privacy in Facebook” to “I don’t care, if it is on the Internet, I don’t care who sees it”, and everything in-between.

We want Ubuntu to be a safe, predictable, and pleasurable platform for everyone, irrespective of their personal views on privacy, but we also respect that there will be some folks who don’t feel we are doing enough to represent their particular personal privacy needs.

When we implemented the Amazon search results feature we didn’t get it 100% right with the first cut in the development release of Ubuntu, but that is how we build Ubuntu; we add software to our development branch and iterate on it in response to feedback and bugs. We did exactly this with these functional and privacy concerns…responding and implementing many of the requirements our community felt were important. We will continue to make these improvements in the future in much the same way.

Now, some of you may share Richard’s concerns over some aspects of this feature, and as I mentioned earlier, I am not here to convince you otherwise. Richard has every right to share his views on privacy, and who am I to tell him or you that he is/you are wrong?

What concerns me more is the FUD in his post. Statements such as:

In your Software Freedom Day events, in your FLISOL events, don’t install or recommend Ubuntu. Instead, tell people that Ubuntu is shunned for spying.


Any excuse Canonical offers is inadequate; even if it used all the money it gets from Amazon to develop free software, that can hardly overcome what free software will lose if it ceases to offer an effective way to avoid abuse of the users.

These statements simply generate fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Ubuntu; a project that has a long history of bringing Free Software to millions of users around the world with an open community and governance.

But then again, this is not particularly surprising from Richard.

I have tremendous respect for Richard and his fantastic work in laying the foundations for the Free Software and Open Source world that we have today, but I think he is short-sighted at times. His views on software projects are pretty binary: either a strict set of ethics (defined by him) are observed, or it should be shunned.

The challenge here is that freedom is also a deeply personal thing.

I believe that freedom is far more than simply freedom of source code or a specific policy around privacy. When I got involved in the Free Software community 14 years ago my passion from then onwards was not driven by creating awesome Free Software code, it was more about creating awesome Free Software experiences that open up technology, education, creativity and collaboration to everyone. Free Software code is simply one mechanic in how we deliver these experiences; it is not the be all and end all of what we do.

A completely free set of source code that implements a system that is difficult to use, lacks the features that users want, is not competitive with proprietary competitors, and/or does not offer a desirable and delightful experience is not going to bring Free Software to the wider world. It may bring Free Software to a passionate collection of enthusiasts (as we saw back in the early days of Linux), but in my mind true freedom is software that is not just available to all but usable by all, even those who are not enthusiasts.

Just look at the success of Apple. General consumers have voted with their feet, and people want beautiful, desirable products that let them do useful and fun things with their friends, families and colleagues. There is absolutely no reason why we can’t achieve this with Free Software.

In Ubuntu we want to build a platform that is even more beautiful, elegant and delightful than Apple, but is infused with the Free Software values that empower that technology, education, creativity and collaboration in everyone.

But unfortunately, as far as Richard is concerned, if Ubuntu doesn’t meet his specific requirements around privacy or Free Software, irrespective that it has brought Free Software to millions of users and thousands of organizations, and despite the fact that you might not share his viewpoint, you should shun it.

This just seems a bit childish to me.

Let’s turn the tables around. Do I agree with everything the Free Software Foundation does? Not at all, but I do think their general body of work is fantastic, worthwhile, and provides an important and valuable service, and I would never want to suggest you should boycott them if you disagree with one part of what they do. Quite the opposite, I would encourage you to see their website, donate, and consider joining them as they provide a valuable piece of the wider Free Software ecosystem, in much the same way Ubuntu provides another piece. Let’s work together, not against each other.

UPDATED: I posted an apology to Richard about to refering to his position as ‘childish’ you can read it here.

  • Matt Fischer

    The things he is complaining about are easily disabled, as explained here: http://askubuntu.com/questions/226575/ubuntu-with-spyware

  • Anonymous

    I’ve always found Richard’s views to be a very tough – but necessary pill to swallow.

    He makes an important point Jono Bacon and I’m very confident that it’s not lost on you even if you happen to prefer a different vision.

    The thing here is we have a proven viable slippery slope. Where eventually the stakeholder of the projects ceases to be the user. This is the problem you get into the business of marketing, promotion and distribution. Your focus changes – even if on the surface you’re entirely transparent about not wanting to compel people to change.

    The operational goal has shifted slightly and this change in the winds tends to precede yet more of the same. A great example is how control of the internet shifted from a more people-oriented purpose to now being controlled by corporations worldwide. All on the premise that the harmless shifts over time were always for the better to help sustain the network.

    We know now that some changes are just never worth it. Often times they’re also not nearly as necessary as they were initially made out to be either.

    Am I upset that there are some Amazon results in my dash? Not really. Could I end up not using Ubuntu if changes like this continue to happen? Yes, quite easily in fact.

    Ubuntu needs to review its core differentiators in the light of decisions like these in the future and how it will handle the one it’s already made.

    Ask yourselves: Was adding Amazon to the dash really necessary? Or was there perhaps a way to create the platform and shift the responsibility to the user establishing that connection to amazon themselves via opt-in?

    If your answer there is “it wouldn’t work” then you’ve touched upon Richard’s fear which is that you’ve just exposed your user base to the dominating ideals of an anti-user corporation.

  • Michael Curran

    Yeah, good luck with convincing the FSF that “free as in beer” is more important than “free as in freedom”.

    Also, I’d have more sympathy for your position if the Dash didn’t recommend buying Window’s software whenever I type a game’s name into it. I fail to see how “Recommending users buy software they can’t use” correlates to “usable by all”.

  • http://zrmt.com/ andylockran

    I dislike Stallman’s views. At a conference in Manchester when he spoke of software freedom, someone rightly asked ‘so should the software in my microwave be free?’

    Stallman’s response was this: “Of course there’s no need for that software to be free; you press the buttons and it just does what it does; there’s no need for it to be free.”

    In an increasingly connected world (I have a Control4 system at home that allows me to control my heating, lighting, audio & security from anywhere with my phone) – being able to program my microwave so that I can connect it to this home-automation system would be awesome. 5 minutes from home it turns on with my dinner in it, then it’s ready when I walk in the door.

    I don’t expect to do this, there are many reasons why it would be a bad idea (like my cat climbing in there,) but why shouldn’t I have the freedom to do that Richard?

    Maybe his ideology made sense at the dawn of personal computing, but it’s lost its relevance as RMS has been slow to adopt and understand the internet. Richard is unfortunately an anachronism that hasn’t stood up to the test of time, and his frequent distasteful (Steve Jobs) and FUDish (this remark) announcements are more of a reason to consign him to the bin.

  • Aaron Toponce

    When I’m searching in the Dash for photos of my daughter playing soccer, and it’s submitted to Amazon, that’s spyware, in it’s purest form. Something like this should be opt-in, not opt-out, IMO.

  • http://dottorblaster.it/ Bl@ster

    Hi :)

    This is a nice point of view, but I think in some way Richard is right, because I don’t like Unity to send away details about me and my searches.

    On the other hand, I find the “switchable feature” way acceptable, but I understand Stallman’s point of view.

  • onli

    He is not complaining, and he is even talking about how being easy to disable doesn’t help. In a sense, Ubuntu by default spies on its users, in that way he is right.

  • http://twitter.com/Federico_II F2

    Well said Jono. Counter FUD with reason.

  • fab

    Funny your blogs has Ads, that’s spyware.

  • Apollo

    rms gave specific reasons for saying what he did. Jono said, essentially, “That’s just your opinion, man” and labelled it FUD. I think you may be confusing which of them has reason on their side.

    The trend of Planet Ubuntu contributors labelling criticism of Ubuntu as “FUD” without addressing it is deplorable.

  • Calinou

    Firefox spies on its users by default (Google and Mozilla get money with advertising from Google Search) Skype, Dropbox Client, (many many more…) spy on their users. Smartphone/tablet apps, too. Google Chrome spies on its users (Chromium spies on its users by default, too).

    Where’s the logic? If you are complaining about Internet searches in your dash, then you do not know how to uncheck a checkbox. It’s simplert han you think.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    I think saying everyone who thinks their is privacy and security concerns surrounding this feature is going to be a uphill battle. As to the claim that anyone with valid facts could debate the matter with Canonical well I sort of disagree with that considering a Ubuntu Developer who worked for Canonical brought up the same issues and was mostly ignored.

    http://www.outflux.net/blog/archives/2012/11/09/product-search-in-ubuntu-12-10/ https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/unity-lens-shopping/+bug/1073114

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    Well said.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa


  • Nicolas Delvaux

    Even if I would prefer having a separated lense for online searches, I can understand that the “global by default” behaviour may be better for most people (those that upload their life to Facebook and Google).

    However, Jono, something still bother me. The design team does not publish usability testing reports anymore, so the community has to trust Canonical when one state “we are implementing this feature because this is better for our users”.

    Maybe more people would agree with Canonical decisions if everyone had the same input data…

  • Alan Bell

    RMS has managed to miss the point on this one. The dash searches lenses and returns results, you have more lenses you have more places your search query goes to. The big huge scary problem is that the privacy control does not work. Really, it flat out doesn’t do what it claims to do. If you write a lens to the published specification it will not make any difference what you set the setting to. For example, try installing the github lens from the extras repo. That quite clearly sends your searches over to github. That would be an internet based query. Try setting the privacy option to not include results from internet searches. Would you expect the github lens to stop working? I would. It doesn’t. That lens and any other lens where the author hasn’t added code to check for the undocumented preference setting will totally ignore it. Having a privacy option that does not work is massively worse than having no expectation of privacy. At some point someone is going to notice this and kick up a fuss, it would be good to have a plan before this for 13.04 for a sensible reimplementation of the privacy thing. My constructive suggestion would be to have a control that decides which lenses can see global search change events. If a lens is not in the list it doesn’t see home page search queries. This way you could for example not have your home lens searches go to Amazon, but you could still click on the shopping lens icon (which doesn’t exist, separate issue) and intentionally operate that lens.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    Firefox does not spy on its users actually… Sure Mozilla has a relationship with Google but when you open the browser for the first time it explains your rights in a panel at the bottom of the browser and Google has a privacy policy on the search page.

    Canonical does nothing to inform new users or those who upgrade that their keystrokes will go over the wire.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    “The big huge scary problem is that the privacy control does not work.”

    Thats actually not the big huge scary problem… I think the big huge scary problem is that the feature is opt-out so any user who installs or upgrades and happens to not read OMG or Zdnet or Jono’s blog will have no idea that they are sending keystrokes over the web until its already done.

    I do think your suggestion on not having home lens searches go to Amazon or other providers is a great idea… They should just make it into a standalone lens with its own icon like all other lenses have.

  • Alan Bell

    file:///usr/share/unity/6/searchingthedashlegalnotice.html is linked to at the bottom of the dash, it is less prominent than it was, but it is still there.

  • Alan Bell

    the legal notice says this:

    “Online Search

    You may restrict your dash so that we don’t send searches to third parties and you don’t receive online search results. To do this go to the Privacy panel and toggle the ‘Include online search results’ option to off. The Privacy panel can be found in your System Settings or via a dash search. For a current list of our selected third parties, please see http://www.ubuntu.com/privacypolicy/thirdparties.”

    and it flat out doesn’t do that. It only applies to the default Canonical authored lenses. I would much rather that the privacy control didn’t exist at all, and users could install or uninstall lenses to achieve the mix they want.

  • http://dottorblaster.it/ Bl@ster

    A configurable spyware 😀 I agree with you, but a valuable point is that you can turn off this feature if you don’t like it.

  • http://benjaminkerensa.com/ Benjamin Kerensa

    Yeah but in reality you have to admit that many users who are not expecting big changes like this might miss the little icon. Again though the warning is after the fact… The second they type anything in its already a done deal… Canonical could easily add a message during install/upgrade or heck the first time they click dash that “Educates” users about the new feature and tells them options on disabling it.

  • Aaron Toponce

    Again, it should be opt-in, not opt-out. If I want the feature, then give me a check-box to turn it on. Otherwise, leave it off by default. Not the other way around.

  • ezoe

    When I type something in Dash, I expect to find files and programs from my local computer. I don’t expect Dash to search from Amazon and leak my search query.

    Whether Canonical use proxy to hide my identity or not doesn’t matter. It still leak my search query which I only intended for local search. That is unacceptable.

    If I do want to search from Amazon, I don’t want to search from my local computer. These things can’t mix each other.

    So, naturally, I removed all lens except for file and application. I guess I have to do this every 6 months. So, do me a favor and not to install spyware on my machine.

  • Avik Topchyan

    Jono, your post contradicts itself in every paragraph. Re-read it. You have tremendous respect for RMS, yet you think his criticism (I’d even call it boycot) is “childish”. When your car dash board shows you gas tank to be empty do you call it childish and just move on? You’ll not get too far like that…

  • http://twitter.com/phonebanshee phonebanshee

    Not seeing the FUD here – seems straightforward. After reading your post (and not reading Stallman’s yet), you’ve convinced me that you’re intentionally installing spyware and you’re upset that someone has objected.

  • Terry B.

    Well…you didn’t really address the specifics of RMS’ objections. Sure, ‘spyware’ is quite a loaded word. But it does sound like we have to take Canonical’s word that the data they are collecting is anonymized and will not be misused. How is anyone to know? I’m a Web developer, and I know how this works– Google, Facebook, Akamai, and other billion-dollar businesses make their money mining and abusing customer data. There is no such thing as anonymity, not without considerable effort like using Tor and sanitizing the PC you Web-surf from. I don’t care for the blurring of the lines between local and remote, either. Please Jono, it sounds like you’re saying RMS is right, and it’s just a question of framing.

  • http://twitter.com/davmor2 Dave Morley

    The dash as pointed out was always designed to search everywhere not just you local machine. The problem was that was the bit that got implemented first and now everyone thinks it was only meant to do that.

  • Greg

    Although i mostly disagree with RMS, he really hit the nail on this one. To reply to your comment on why not recommending Canonical’s Linux distribution for containing spyware is FUD: For a person to whom that kind of thing is spyware thats actually the most ethical, sensible and only thing to do. As you say privacy is a personal thing, so i can’t understand why you say its FUD.

    Plus this partnership is with a company with quite questionable ethics as RMS himself explains better than i would ever possibly be able to. http://stallman.org/amazon.html

  • Anonymous

    Well, I find all these lens addons quite intrusive. You should offer the possibility to completely disable them without affecting any package dependencies.

  • http://twitter.com/davmor2 Dave Morley

    Yes that is because the internet search is currently only for the amazon lens. Eventually you will have a disable each individual scope or all scopes. But there wasn’t time to implement that. As I understand it the is a ui diagram somewhere you can search out. Hope that helps Alan.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve done enough coding to appreciate the value of access to source, but I don’t at all agree with Stallman’s view of software choice as encumbered with moral and ethical questions.

    If Canonical is spying on Ubuntu’s users, then the company is a strong candidate for worst spy in the world. Spying, I believe, is supposed to be secret. Canonical, though, not only broadcasts what Ubuntu’s search lenses do, but it tells people how to disable it.

    Stallman wants us to live in the same hairshirted world he inhabits. Sorry, Richard. I am not so inclined.

  • Alan Bell

    yeah, it needs to get fixed, and I do understand that the current solution was thrown together in feature freeze as a low-risk approach that could be made to work quickly. Disabling scopes isn’t actually what I want to do. I still want to be able to go to the Amazon lens and search and buy stuff. I just don’t need super to search there. If I uninstall or disable the scope altogether then I lose the shopping capability.

  • johnny2k

    “My only goal has been to ensure that everyone who participates in the debate trades in facts and not in misinformation and FUD”

    Where’s the misinformation? Was Stallman wrong about Ubuntu shipping with non-free software activated? Does Unity not send information to Amazon? Was that “feature” an accident that has since been fixed? (I really want to know because I haven’t used Unity or Gnome3 since they came out.. good products but just not my style)

    “…Ubuntu; a project that has a long history of bringing Free Software to millions of users around the world with an open community and governance.”

    Let’s keep it that way.

  • johnny2k

    Very good to know. Now I just need to see the proof that it needs to be enabled by default and the argument will be settled.

  • Thomas Kluyver

    To avoid doubt, only your search is sent online, not the photos.

    I agree this should be opt-in, but I think calling it spyware is exaggeration. It’s very obvious from the first time you use it that it’s a local+online search, and no-one at Ubuntu has tried to pretend it isn’t. We would just prefer it to be a local-only search.

  • Scott

    If canonical think ubuntu users are so keen to have an advertising catalogue, lets just call it affiliate junk mail, thrown in their face every time they use the dash.Then why isn’t this great feature shown off on the ubuntu on-line tour?

  • http://dottorblaster.it/ Bl@ster

    Just because Ubuntu is a commercial product IMHO.

    Makin’ a feature like this opt-in would be totally right but people will just not use it. So Canonical enables this to say “hey, this is a feature, and we enabled it for you!” – or people simply will not use Amazon search in Unity because they have not used it before and they wouldn’t even know that they have the possibility.

    So is it right to setup spywares in people’s OSes? Absolutely not, but you have to deal with the fact that Ubuntu is a commercial product, and from the commercial point of view of this debate, an opt-in feature for a partnership with Amazon would be a MEGA fail.

  • ag.restringere

    Software exists because of commercial interests. The first computers were built for large businesses, engineering/science labs and the military. Early software built by Alan Turing (go Turing!) was used by the British Intelligence in WWII to crack the Enigma code and launch a devastating and glorious defeat of the evil Axis powers. The point is what planet is Richard living on where he can think that somehow software exists outside of a military/scientific/commercial context and be totally separated from it? Software was originally invented for and has always been built for these interests. So in Richard’s world is NASA evil because it uses Linux and GNU tools on equipment that could end up being ported to military uses?

    Would love to ask Richard Stallman how the MIT Artificial Intelligence lab where he started his career got it’s funding?

  • foo

    Stallman is right, quit making lame excuses. Respect what the users value or else you won’t have any left.

  • Bryan


    I feel like you were quite frustrated in this post. I understand how frustrating it is when organizations that have similar missions fight, but some of your words seem to be a personal attack on RMS. Not to say you can’t do that… but a reasoned debate should not resort to personal attacks (see Ubuntu Code of Conduct).

    I am specifically referring to: * But then again, this is not particularly surprising from Richard. * This just seems a bit childish to me.

    I understand the desire to defend Ubuntu, but if it is indeed “FUD” then it is best to fight it with reason.

  • WhoWatchesTheWatchers

    The FSF site where RMS posted his thoughts sets cookies on anonymous sessions and includes tracking javascript. Is that spyware?

  • darkfires

    I’m sorry but I’m going to have to vote against Ubuntu here, if there is any single Linux distribution I have ever used that made me hate Linux because it was so poorly built, it’s Ucraptu. Ubuntu has made lots of controversial and incompetent decisions, bastardizing and ruining Linux in the process. They DO NOT think about the users before they make decisions that drastically alter the use and perception of it. Ubuntu is permanently on my never-install list (and has been for a couple years now), nothing but problems. This is just another nail in it’s coffin. If you run Ubuntu, you’re not looking at your options. Check out Linux Mint if you want something ubuntuish without the junk and problems, otherwise Debian is always a safe bet.

  • Grady Fields

    RMS is pretty much always the harshest view from the Free Software side of things, but he is right about this.

    While I trust Canonical fairly well, I don’t trust governments that can often obtain this sort of data without due process.

    A simply toggle switch on the right of the Dash to control whether online results are included or not would solve so much of the bad publicity for Ubuntu on this. Just say “The switch is right there!”. Having the option off in Settings means that most people aren’t likely to use it.

    It’s going to be a while before I upgrade past 12.04 because of stuff like this.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this article. It was a thoughtful and respectful response to Richard’s blog post. I too am writing this to share my own opinion and not that of my employer, the FSF.

    In particular, I want to make a minor critique having to do more with diction than anything else. In particular, your use of the phrase “FUD” does not seem appropriate in this context. FUD is not simply an acronym for “fear, uncertainty, and doubt.” And it most certainly does not refer to any such tactic which produces fear, uncertainty, and doubt — there are plenty of legitimate reasons to do so, after all. FUD refers to a specific tactic of making false and dubious claims in order generate fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

    As such, claiming that the president of a charity is using FUD is a pretty strong allegation to make. I think in order to make such an allegation one would need to show that Richard’s blog post (taken as a whole and not just particular sentences) is a dubious attempt at spreading disinformation and lies about Ubuntu with end result that these lies will create create fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of his readers and of the public at large.

    I don’t think this is the claim or allegation you are in fact trying to make in your article. So, while I think there are lots of ways you could state your disagreement about Richard’s political tactics in this blog post, but, I don’t think “FUD” is an appropriate or accurate characterization.

    All the best, Josh

  • Hashem

    RMS has legitimate points. Jono, you keep repeating that people have different notions of privacy. What kind of defense is that? No one WANTS anything they search for on their computer to be sent over the network to a 3rd party.

    Also, RMS didn’t say that feature was bad. He said how Canonical has implemented it is shit. He says opt-out is shit. He says opt-in is shit. However, he did say that it would be fine to enable users to specify at each search whether it gets sent to you at Canonical.

    It’s not FUD, fool. It’s criticism. No one likes the amazon search.

    Increasingly Canonical has become increasingly brash with how it treats its users (i.e. Shuttleworth’s “erm root” comment). I don’t like it one bit.

  • Anonymous

    TL;DR? Richard does explain they can be disabled, and in facts, address the very idea they can be disabled:

    Ubuntu allows users to switch the surveillance off. Clearly Canonical thinks that many Ubuntu users will leave this setting in the default state (on). And many may do so, because it doesn’t occur to them to try to do anything about it. Thus, the existence of that switch does not make the surveillance feature ok. Even if it were disabled by default, the feature would still be dangerous: “opt in, once and for all” for a risky practice, where the risk varies depending on details, invites carelessness. To protect users’ privacy, systems should make prudence easy: when a local search program has a network search feature, it should be up to the user to choose network search explicitly each time. This is easy: all it takes is to have separate buttons for network searches and local searches, as earlier versions of Ubuntu did. A network search feature should also inform the user clearly and concretely about who will get what personal information of hers, if and when she uses the feature.
  • Fred .

    Liar! Unity is not about bringing usefulness to its users, it is about monetizing and cashing in on the users! Stallman is right. Unity is spyware, and not only spyware but also adware.

  • Anonymous

    Could be a checkmark just below the one for Ubuntu Restricted Extras in the installer. Easy solution

  • Chauncellor

    Jono, I really really want Ubuntu to get privacy under control. I was so shocked that https wasn’t even used all around on all these queries. I can understand the direction that’s being used but I think that it should have firstly been stated early in development for better chances of feedback and also so we can have a privacy-first atmosphere. I’m very unhappy with the amount of connection to canonical’s servers that are required nowadays – netstat reports an unsettling amount of connections (most of them without encryption).

    I love Unity and I have loved Ubuntu for the many years I’ve used it (almost exclusively) but if this isn’t under control I fear for the quality of Ubuntu as a whole.

  • Chauncellor

    You can easily make it search anywhere: o will bring up the ‘online sources’ lense. If you use it very often then you can opt-in to have it integrate with the home lense.

  • Greg Silverstein

    I’m not sure I understand the backlash against this feature? Does turning it off not stop the packets of information from being sent to Canonical? On or off by default is not really worthy of this much debate. If you want to be truly safe from targeted advertising on the internet you have to ADD noscript to Firefox after installation and yet no one is complaining about Firefox being spyware.Heck if this is really such a big deal Ubuntu is still opensource fork the distro, find the Boolean that controls the amazon lens, disable it and distribute safebuntu.

  • http://twitter.com/hadrons123 hadrons123

    You want to install spyware and you are trying to convince others that stallman is FUD. wake up. canonical is not going get my money like this.

  • http://www.go2linux.org/ Guillermo Garron

    Hi Aaron, you are right. It should be opt-in. And we should have been informed about this in the first place. But I think the words of Dr. Stallman not only hurt Ubuntu, but the whole Linux and FOSS community. He would have just used a lower tone, and address the “issue” in a different way. We are not that strong yet, to be shooting our own foot. (My humble opinion)

  • http://twitter.com/rjonesx rjonesx

    It doesn’t actually fit with the purest definition of spyware because it does not intend to be “covert”. The information sent is specifically to deliver a search result / perform a service and essential to that service being delivered. The query is necessary to the feature, unlike spyware where the data collection behaviors are surreptitious and unnecessary.

  • Ian Santopietro

    It’s also anonymous (as far as Amazon is concerned, Canonical is searching for “photos of daughter”). If you don’t want non-identifiable information collected about you, then you have to opt our of the internet too.

  • Terry B

    Is that supposed to be an argument in support of Canonical??

  • Terry B

    So your argument is ‘other people do bad things to make money, so it’s OK.’ Got it.

  • http://twitter.com/akustyk Bartek Plichta

    Jono, Richard is right. Yes, his words are harsh, but, in principle, he is right. The entire Ubuntu community has worked towards making the OS stronger, not just as an operating system, but as an idea around which people unite. Without the community, there would be no Ubuntu. You are alienating your most faithful users and contributors by installing features such as Amazon search by default. If you don’t see this as wrong, on so many levels, then you have a rather limited understanding of the Linux community. The moment you try to have users “vote with their feet” you lose the community. The success of Linux as a desktop OS has been precisely in opposition to consumerism.

  • Anonymous

    Is it still anonymous when they have both the IP address of my Dash search and the IP of the last time I bought something from their site?

  • cacalari

    Wrong conclusion about why he said there is no need that the microwave-software is free/open. Ergo your other conclusions are in doubt as well. And you mix up all the stuff anyway. He talks about a simple microwave, and you take that answer to your Control4 environment.. what he clearly didn’t assume of course. tsss.

  • Symon Cadwalader

    I love it how you spin the amazon implementation on ubuntu to sound as if it is there to “benefit the user” by providing a central place in which you can search and find things that are interesting and relevant to them when in reality it is implemented to make Canonical $$$ at the users expense/abuse in the hopes to “trick” the unsuspecting user who doesn’t know any better by having it turned “on” by default. There are plenty of moral/respectable ways to make money for the project that doesn’t involve spying on the user… yes it is SPYING whether you are honest about the feature or not and call it something else. I agree with Richard on this one (but not everything he talks about)

  • Recursive

    Even if Ubuntu were not spying, who would want to see advertisement on their application launcher? It is disturbing.

  • http://ashshields.tumblr.com/ Ash Shields

    This is a really good point, especially when you consider the users who are “not enthusiasts” – the ones that perhaps aren’t so wise in the ways of software. How many people are going to click one of those links in their dash, thinking “Hey, I could use that program”, buy it, and then find out that they can’t install it whatsoever?

  • Chad Botting

    I do see the point that Richard is trying to make. I use Amazon quite often and happy with it for the most part. However after reading many of the comments here I think the solution to the problem is quite simple. Canonical has to come up with a way to make money. Software development is very expensive. The simplest solution is to leave the current builds of Ubuntu as an opt-out system and then create a whole other build of Ubuntu for the users that are very concerned about privacy issues. As long as they are maintained on equal footing I think this would be acceptable. Since I don’t care (that much) about any person or company seeing what I search for, I would use a version of Ubuntu tied to Amazon and then would buy things from Amazon simply because they are supporting an OS that is the first OS that actually gave me a realistic chance to use something other than Windows for the first time more than a few weeks. As an America I like the idea of voting for goods and services with my wallet. I don’t follow all the players in the free software world as closely as many of the readers of this article obviously do, but in my option many free software players have some strange ideas when it comes to privacy and even what is ethical. Just look at the issues of the Apache Software foundation and do not track issues with IE10. That issue is not that different than this one, only it is the other way around. Yet again it is the free software people saying what the big evil corporation is doing is wrong. As far as Richard talking about reasons not to buy from Amazon such as working conditions, I personally think this is kinda of stupid. As a person who was once stuck in a similar dead end job that only had a very low skill set requirement, I think it up the individual person to make a choice to simply quite that job and refuse to work at any job that they does not meet there requirements for employment. We people living in the free and developed world are guaranteed many freedoms to self determination, use them.

  • pingoo

    What about ask people at the first search, with short information and a link with more info about the feature, how enable and disable it and maybe also a video example?

  • Daniel

    So Canonical knows you have a daughter then.

  • Daniel

    He’s always had that tone, and it’s never hurt Linux before.

  • Daniel

    OT, but could I please take the opportunity to point out that words like spyware and software are uncountable nouns. You can’t say ‘a spyware’ just as you can’t say ‘a bread’ or ‘an information’. Spyware is a class of software, and Ubuntu is ‘a piece of configurable spyware.’

  • john

    Well said ..

  • Morg

    You seem to imply that free software is either “lax” in its rules (contrary to Richard’s beliefs) and user friendly or it is strict (what Stallman wants) and ugly/hard to use.

    You seem to imply that it’s more important to have something shiny that spies on you but millions of people can easily use than something not-so-shiny that doesn’t spy on you. In this case, may I point you to OSX? That’s a really shiny piece of software, you will find yourself at home there.

    Honestly, you say that “it’s just a development version” and “we’re testing out stuff” and also that you prioritize privacy and security for Ubuntu’s user… and yet all these features are all opt-out and not opt-in. I don’t give a rat’s ass if people want to have amazon (or whatever) track them, I don’t care if people like or don’t like the Unity interface. I do care about the fact that you added spying features on your software without letting the users choose to use them. Instead you added a hidden EULA/TOS (or whatever you want to call it) document that they automatically accept the first time they use the Ubuntu dash. This should be illegal and it is indeed spying on your users.

    I do not believe you put user privacy first and foremost on your priorities so please don’t spread lies. We can clearly see this was no concern for you during the development phase.

    I have no problem with Debian tracking my usage of the OS since they ask you during installation. I have no problem with firefox submitting usage data since they ask you if you want to participate. There are countless of software products that ask the users if they want to send their private data to the company that developed them (even Microsoft does it in some products), Ubuntu doesn’t do this though. The dash simply does not care about privacy and until you do something about it, Ubuntu should be treated as malware and spyware, there is no other way around it.

  • Anonymous

    But it IS spyware. It is software that without the user’s knowledge or consent sends information about the user to another computer. That fact that you think it is good spyware doesn’t change this. It is not possible to really anonymize data if it is to be used for targeted results or ads later. It simply can’t be done. Even if it was, this data sending is totally inexcusable to do without an opt-in. Opt-out-possibilities never have and never will be any excuse for anything

    I find it a bit sad that you claim to only want to put the facts out there, because the facts are 1: You don’t provide any fact about the matter at all 2: You don’t even try to make a case for why this should not be considered spyware 3: You only try to influence peoples feelings of Ubuntu, and how you do good, which is exactly what you claim to NOT be doing.

    Did you even read your own post before you posted it?

  • Anonymous

    I just read RMS’s post. His reactions and prose are often overblown & ocnfrontational, but I must say that he sounds more reasonable here than you do, Jono. As others have said, if you want to countaract his claims, you should offer a point-by-point rebuttal. In particular,

    • does canonical record users’ searches? If so, that really is spyware.
    • is the option opt-out? If so, it really shouldn’t be.
    • would ‘opt-in’ be an adequate protection for users? If so, you should make a case for that position.

    Read this eminently reasonable paragraph, and then respond directly to its claims. That’s you you’ll ocnvince people!

    “Even if it were disabled by default, the feature would still be dangerous: “opt in, once and for all” for a risky practice, where the risk varies depending on details, invites carelessness. To protect users’ privacy, systems should make prudence easy: when a local search program has a network search feature, it should be up to the user to choose network search explicitly each time. This is easy: all it takes is to have separate buttons for network searches and local searches, as earlier versions of Ubuntu did. A network search feature should also inform the user clearly and concretely about who will get what personal information of hers, if and when she uses the feature.”

  • Rabbit


  • Patrick Elliott-Brennan

    Actually Jon, spying does not have to be secret.

    Spying can be obvious. CCTV cameras spy on you all the time but you can see them. In the novel 1984 it was obvious the population was being spied on and in East Germany prior to the collapse of the Communist government it was pretty clear that the Stasi was spying on people, as the security does in North Korea.

    “Opt-in” is the only ethical option here. Canonical are well aware of the research which shows people will likely NOT opt-in, hence the choice of ‘opt-out’. If they are not aware of the research, then they have not done their job very well.

    Additionally, there is very little in the world which does not have an ethical question attached to it. What toilet paper do you use? Who made it? What do they do to their employees? Do they cut down rainforests to make it? Do they pump their refuse into local rivers?

    Do you choose to use an OS made by a company which is paranoid and extremely controlling (Apple) or from a company with a long track record of monopolistic behaviours (Microsoft)?

    Whichever you buy you are supporting their actions, views, attitudes towards business ethics and so on.

  • boltronics

    It’s not FUD – it’s fact. Ubuntu is, strictly speaking, shipping by default with spyware.

    Stallman has spent his entire life selflessly trying to help humanity. OTOH, you work for a company that uses the questionable (at best) practise of spying as a revenue channel, using Stallman’s work as a base for the distribution. I know who I’ll be taking advice from.

  • boltronics

    And this:

    • I think he is short-sighted at times. Clearly, Jono hasn’t read The Right to Read. You can say a lot of things about the guy, but short-sighted definitely isn’t one of them.
  • Anonymous

    Patrick, I don’t see it as an ethical issue. It may or may not be something I find desirable, for other reasons, but I certainly do not agree that all my actions and choices have ethical implications. I specifically do not think my product purchase choices amount to “support” for anyone or anything. (I’ve used Macs for as long as I’ve used Linux; at least 15 years. I’m supporting neither. I’m using products that I want to use. Specifically, I use both because they are, in essence, Unix, my first OS. I would buy a closed proprietary Linux if it provided the same software; I would not use an open, free, Linux if, for example, it cloned Windows rather than Unix.)

    However, if someone does consider Ubuntu’s tracking to be an ethical issue and does not want that kind of information about their online behavior to be tracked, then they can choose to use Ubuntu and turn it off, or avoid Ubuntu altogether.

    CCTV, etc., represent surveillance more than spying, although the different terminology isn’t likely to appease anyone. We are awash in technology that allows us to observe and record the behavior of others, which is something we have always done, within the constraints of the tools available at the time. If my grandmother’s grocer recorded, in a big book, the details of all his customers’ purchases and then used the data to enhance sales, would my grandmother have fretted about his ethics?

    Obviously, technology will only become more pervasive. (E.g., self-driving car technology will record everything we do with the car.) I don’t know how people will react to that. But, it seems clear the challenge is not to artificially hobble technology because some don’t want it used in ways they find offensive, but to decide who has access, and for what purposes, to data about us that will be collected and retained in exquisite, endless, detail.

    Stallman wants us to adopt his self-inflicted hobble-yourself approach. That’s clearly a nonstarter. Attempting to persuade people to stop doing things they want to do via religious conversion almost never works. Followed to its logical end, Stallman’s approach would see people disengage from society much like the Amish and others.

    People will not alter their behavior merely because people who seem strange to them (Stallman) tell them they are doing something “bad”, no more than adolescents will stop having sex because some people tell them that’s also “bad”.

    I agree most people will not take Ubuntu’s opt-out approach. Or, take a hypothetical opt-in approach. I think most people would leave the default setting as it was after installation, whatever it was.

  • kabamaru

    Mark Shuttleworth: “Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already.”

    No I don’t trust you, and no, you don’t have my root.

  • Peter

    Stallman is correct.Fullstop.

  • jza

    This is a good point to remind us about one of the core points in RMS ideology — free software is not only about open source but also software without malicious features.

  • Hartmut Noack

    I understand, that you are stunned by another typical RMSian blow in your direction but to state this and to ask him for being a bit more cooperative does not solve any of points he raises: To have an amazone-search lense built in by default without asking the user weather he/she wants it or not is wrong. It is unethical and there is no technical reason to have it that way.

    So your ethics are to be questioned and labeling harsh criticism “FUD” is not a valid answer.

    You say:

    The challenge here is that freedom is also a deeply personal thing.

    What comes next? What will be the next steps of implementing your personal opinions about freedom into Ubuntu?

    No sir! Freedom is freedom and what you do with it, is a personal thing. And what a person tolerates from a system like Ubuntu is a personal thing too.

    I thought, that you had heared the users after the amazone-lense kind of thing get public. I heared, that you would change it to be an opt-in feature.

    Any news on that?

  • Neil Broadley (Scaine)

    Stallman.org recommends that I read ‘The Lifelong Activist”. Which is an advert, despite his disclaimer. Ach, I’m joking, but the guy is so holier-than-thou he’s just not relevant to me. Be aware, by all means, but life if about balance and the cult of Stallman isn’t for me.

  • Yann

    Stallman is right. I too am recommending against Ubuntu 12.10 – although I’ve been using Ubuntu for over 8 years now (and would consider myself a long-term Ubuntu enthusiast/activist), I’m considering a switch. I don’t think Canonical had the best interest of its users at heart when doing this decision, and yes, we leave Canonical root, but that’s because we trust Canonical, and that trust is eroding, fast.

    In a couple of months Canonical will realize that to make results more relevant they will have to track, log, and analyse queries made by single users – and track on what they clicked – and the bullshit with “non-identifiable UIDs” will start. This is how the advertising / recommendation business works (and we got absolutely no control over this). And the last thing I want is a company to know what software I am starting, when, monitoring my usage of my computer to deliver me relevant advertisement.

    You say these features are to provide a better experience with Ubuntu – I fail to find a majority of happy users in these comments. Are we just the “vocal minority”? As a community manager, shouldn’t you hear the community out, instead of dismiss our comments?

    It would take guts to backpedal, but that would be the right thing to do.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Exactly — and it should not.

  • hoabaloa

    I don’t even want my close friends and family to see my search results, so neither Amazon, Canonical, Google or Mozilla will get to see it.

    I’m a big believer in sane defaults, Dash is not sane defaults so I’ll pick a distro that provides it. If anyone is offended by that, I don’t care.

  • http://twitter.com/angelbladex Luis García

    if you want Ubuntu don´t use packages from FSF, then Ubuntu would use other thing

  • Dimitri

    Jono, your post is really bad. Instead of answering on Stallman’s allegations, you give a speech about freedom and privacy in general. We dont care about those things. We care about the decision making in Canonical and how this will affect our lives because we use Ubuntu on a daily basis. So simple.

  • http://www.kubuntu.org/ Lilian A. Moraru

    You should really read what a spyware is. What the “feature” does is actually a spyware.

  • Robert Pogson

    Jono, your post is pure bull. Buried under tons of PR speech are thinly veiled ad hominem attacks against Stallman. In fact, it is you who is childish. Your “feature” is rightly classfied as spyware by Stallman. Is it opt-in? No, it is opt-out, as per this blog post:


    And therein lies the whole problem. A privacy notice is nice, but the right thing is to ask the user, either at installation time or at least before he accesses the Dash for the first time, if he wants this feature active. There can’t be any discussion about this.

    This was, by the way, the last straw that lead to my switching from Ubuntu to Xubuntu where I don’t have to put up with your ridiculous “innovations”.

  • Krole Krabovich

    Jono, lets stop to produce this bullshit. Just say as it is – yes, RMS is right, we a going fuck you all (i.e. ubuntu users)

  • Peter Wang

    Stallman’s rhetoric is unfortunately alarmist and I cringe whenever he lambasts something without tact, and doubtless many people hate him for that, but his predictions/accusations have a nasty way of coming true. This issue is definitely no exception. This is it, Jono. This is the fork in the road. Either you stand the side of your users, and in the name of the freedom that made your distro, and many others, so successful, or you will defect to the realm of Google and put revenue before ethics. Choose wisely.

  • http://www.bitblokes.de/ bitblokes

    Wrong – let the user set the switch during installation – that would be an acceptable …

  • putojono

    Hey Jono, stick Ubuntu up your ass and the enjoy all the adware and spyware

  • Avik Topchyan

    @twitter-155912365:disqus, I think Jono’s under impression that he knows how the community functions, he even wrote a book on the subject, check this out:


  • jza

    This is a good point too. It is in the first place ridiculous to have some Amazon search going on at the same time when I’m searching for files on my own computer.

  • Avik Topchyan

    “voting with their feet” is already happening, according to Distrowatch ratings. If Mark and other Ubuntu leaders prefer to press on, regardless of the opinion of their users — it’s their choice — but they shouldn’t be saying that they are developing an OS for the people anymore. If this trend continues on, I’m sure pretty soon majority of current *untu users will quietly migrate to another distro, much lighter, much cooler, much more useful. After all, users are not all that stupid.

  • Stanislav German-Evtushenko

    Amazon is okay but why do not make it disabled by default? Why do not put it on the installation screen (check the attached screenshot) with unchecked checkbox?

    If Canonical made amazon search disalbed by default, users would consider that as a ‘new cool feature’ but Canonical made it switched on by default and that turned to a “spyware”.

  • 2lss

    “My only goal has been to ensure that everyone who participates in the debate trades in facts and not in misinformation and FUD; there is enough misinformation and FUD on the Internet without us all adding to it.”

    The majority of the article is irrelevant. The author claims that Stallman is spreading misinformation and FUD, but never provides any “facts” to disprove him. This whole article sounds like a sales pitch to me.

    Having to opt-out rather than opt-in is just an excuse to push this feature on to uninformed users. If I wanted my operating system to collect personal data out of the box then I would just use Windows.

    Bottom line. Most users are not comfortable with a search feature that sends personal information to Canonical. Unless you can prove that this feature doesn’t do that, then you are wasting everyone’s time.

  • insanitybit

    What exactly do you think is getting sent to Amazon? Pictures of your daughter? They aren’t getting sent – absolutely not.

  • swg

    Firefox spies on its users by default

    No, the Awesome Bar does not send search queries and keystrokes to google by default. You have the expectation that typing something in the search widget will be sent to Google and are explained all of your rights when you first start up.

    Google Chrome

    yes, Chromium does in fact


    And search suggestions in the address bar is not unlike this problem we are discussing, where anything typed is sent.

  • Maecenas

    It isn’t really important where the switch is. What’s important is that it should be off by default.

    Of course this would have the side effect of giving Canonical an incentive to make it as visible as they can. After all, they’d want as many users as possible to find and enable it.

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido

    Agreed. And in addition there’s the fact that Amazon hasn’t bothered to promote Ubuntu in any way as a response to the deal made between the two parts.

  • http://twitter.com/joshhostels Josh (Hostels)

    I agree with Richard Stallman. Ubuntu is classic spyware. It captures keystrokes, sends them to a remote server, and then serves commission-based advertising. An operating system should not communicate with the network unless the user explicitly opts-in. There should always be a solid line between what is local and what is remote. I don’t use Ubuntu anymore for this reason.

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido

    I always read all before commenting, and you should, too.

  • juststopjono

    Personal post or not its ad hominem attack on RMS in violation of the Ubuntu Code of Conduct.

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido

    I think the place of that switch is the least important thing here…

  • Hartmut Noack

    On or off by default is not really worthy of this much debate.

    It is. On or off by default is the thing that is the most important when it comes to deciding if Ubuntu is still recommendable.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Science is neither commercial nor military. Commercial software industries are built on scientific research and that is OK, may buisiness people have their profit with it, nothing wrong with that.

    But commercial companies are not the midwifes of software, they are its stepmothers at best.

    Plus: Not even Stallman every said, that making money with software would be something bad or unethical. It can be unethical though, if your only rule of engagement is make money, make more money.

    There are things, that are wrong and a sane reason to do them does not make them right.

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido


  • Hartmut Noack

    That RMS is radical and somewhat anachronistic does not tell anything about the matter: the amazon-lens is not an opt-in but on by default. This is wrong no matter who says it no matter how he says it.

  • Anonymous

    The problem is not the search itself, the problem is how it is implemented. It should be OFF by default, and the user should be able to turn it ON/OFF without interfering with all of his/her other search providers.

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido

    So… are you commenting on the post?

  • http://fitoschido.wordpress.com/ Fitoschido

    How can you care about a “Canonical decision that will affect your life”, if you don’t care about freedom and privacy? Then it’s not affecting your life.

  • Anonymous

    It is not adware, it is product information ,,, and its not spyware, it’s collecting data for your convenience … and it’s not a lie, it’s only a game with words, like all advertizing and pr.

  • Anonymous

    The comparison to 1984 is one that is always in my mind when reading or hearing RMS. At first glance he sounds like a religious missionary, but if you follow his arguments you start to wonder, how far we all are into “Newspeak” today. He calls our mobile phones spyware and surveillance technology and he is right in doing so, but our day to day habits of using these things has made us blind to that. For many people though that won’t matter, because we are so used to trade privacy and freedom for convenience and Ubuntu is far more convenient than that Free alternatives recommended by the fsf.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it is and the fsf should know better.

  • Winfried Maus

    I think we all got used by now that Richard Stallman (rms) is playing the role of the Chief Witch Hunter of the Holy Inquisition, and now he’s found another victim. Instead of simply telling the people that the Amazon lens can be de-activated by simply turning off “Internet search results” in Ubuntu’s privacy settings or by uninstalling the lens entirely with ONE simply command, he rather writes another PhD thesis about how evil Canonical is. rms wants everybody to write “free” software and claims that this is the only “ethical” option, but he never provided “his” community with a FEASIBLE business model that puts food on the table, pays for the mortgage and gets the kids through school and college. Asking for donations and charging for support are NOT feasible business models for most projects; if they were, the company behind the most successful Linux desktop distribution certainly wouldn’t have to come with such attempts at becoming independent from Mark Shuttleworth’s private money and reaching a point where Ubuntu can support itself. Especially companies only use Linux because they don’t have to pay for it, and all companies and organizations that I ever had professional dealings with refused to sign support contracts. And if even companies don’t want to pay for it, does rms honestly expect that private persons open their wallets for somebody’s technical support? And when are the developers to actually write more FREE code when they have to spend most of their working hours helping their PAYING customers by giving tech support? How great are the chances that a project will ever receive sufficient donations to be economically viable for its developers? Or that merchandise articles will wash in the sufficient amounts of money to keep the development of an open source project alive? Richard Stallman’s business “advice” is not based in the real world, it actually is the greatest flaw in his entire ideology. And until he properly fixes this flaw, I will ignore his tirades of hate against products that simply try to help their users and pay for themselves at the same time.

  • leslie

    Jono , read and think : http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/data_protection/the_guide/principle_1.aspx , there are some other legal documents as well that are on the topic of privacy and data collection. I would also recommend an more open mind, and global view, do we want an user in an not western country to see amazon advertisements ? Do we want advertisements in an professional workplace ? Do we want the ubuntu desktop in schools to show advertisements ? No, i think so. Unity is hard enough as it is, when you dont know a programs name its hard to find, its becomes even harder when its also cluttered with online search results. Who wants this online search so bad ? And Why? Why? Do an usability test, aks your community, consult your friends!

    And thats my opinion, i wish you well.

  • Hartmut Noack

    While I agree with you on the matter, that software-authors need ways to get money, I do not share you conclusion, that Stallmans post is a pointless rant of some witchhunter.

    RMS does NOT say, that Canonical should not make money with Ubuntu, he says, that it should stop trying to make money using methods, that are not ethical.

    And Jono Bacon did not discuss any of the problems, Stallman states in his post. No word on the question, why the amazon-lense is still not an opt-in. And in an software-bundle that is built with ethics-detectors turned on properly, such a function must be an opt-in.

  • Axel FILMORE

    This is a personal post and does not neccessarily represent the views of anyone else : I don’t give a shit of Stallman’s opinion. Keep on the good work Canonical.


  • Marc Deslauriers

    Easy, use the “Privacy” applet in the system settings, as indicated by the legal notice at the bottom of the dash.

  • Zack

    I’ll just skip the purple prose and the confusing web of strawmen en red herrings you spun, and address this particular tidbit:

    “Richard Stallman’s business “advice” is not based in the real world”

    The world’s largest information network, worth countless billions, has grown to its current size mainly because of ideas espoused by, amongst countless others, rms; it doesn’t get more “real world” than that.

    Whatever you feel is a proper “good business model” or are convenient “products that simply try to help …”, is small fries what has basically already been established in the commercial arena build around this untenable “ideology”.

    Maybe you should let go of the hatred you feel and take a look at what’s really happening inside the commercially successful free software based enterprises and ask yourself, “Does ubuntu really need to treat its users like cattle to make money or are there other ways?”

  • discusdoesnotneedtoknowmyname

    And what exactly is wrong with RMS’s rallying against a privacy violating measure? That’s RMS standing up for other people’s privacy. He should be commended, and you should be ashamed of yourself for attacking him (this practically is an ad hominem attack).

    RMS has convinced me at least that I should have some fear, uncertainty and doubt about Ubuntu’s commitment to privacy.

  • Anonymous

    I agree privacy & the rite to change code are only 2 pieces of the puzzle…making free software available and usable, for science, education, entertainment, work and play are also pieces that need to be balanced by the community appeal of free software. coding is a hobby for me, so I don’t care about software from an RMS selfish “I should be able to play w/ it standpoint”, but a security/usability community testing/feedback standpoint. I just wish the RMS followers would start thinking in more than 2 dimensions.

  • Dimitri

    I dont care about freedom and privacy IN GENERAL, the way Jono answered. I care about freedom and privacy that Ubuntu brings with it, like Stallman did.

  • jim

    I feel Jono has been failing miserably as Ubuntu community leader, after this most recent post, it’s become clear he should step down from that position. Apparently Canonical believe building communities around commercial spam that we can look forward to getting more and more product suggestions in raring is the direction forward.No matter how much the community complain the momentum towards that goal goes forward. It doesn’t matter that no one really wants spyware/adware/junkmail built in to their desktop its all about the money that can be made from the affiliated links and un wanted information gathering.Instead we deal with the the mark shuttleworths telling folk our complaints are un warranted,we are idiots that complain to much followed by new features are moving to skunkworks to avoid the criticism from the community until they are released. What a joke !!

  • Name

    He’s always had that tone, and it has hurt Linux before. But at least, most of the time, it was for the right reasons.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, thankyou everyone for the comments, both agreeing and disagreeing with my post.

    I just want to be clear here.

    As I mentioned in the post, my goal here is not to convince you folks that the shopping lens is a great feature or that you should use it. I am not here to convince you that the current Ubuntu privacy policy is something you should be happy with and that it meets your needs. We all have different views and opinions on this.

    My issue here was with the tone of Richard’s post. I think referring to a feature he disagrees with as a malicious piece of software that deliberately seeks to gather your information without your knowledge (this is what spyware is), and that Ubuntu should be shunned because of “spying” is over-sensationalizing the issue, and this causes FUD.

    Compare and contrast this to the recent EFF post expressing the same concerns about privacy in Ubuntu – that article was fair, balanced, focused on the core issue, and did not pull any punches in critique of Canonical’s current position. I had no issue at all with that post; I think they delivered that feedback well, and that is the kind of frank yet balanced feedback that helps projects. Richard’s post was instead overly-sensational.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the flowers!

  • Name

    Okay, so RMS was being RMS-y. I can agree with that.

    Now what is Canonical doing about the criticism it is getting from both RMS and the EFF?

  • Keksys

    As a matter of fact, yes, he’s commenting on this post. And I understand what he’s talking. Do you?

    This was Mark under a spot-lights. And now Jono on Amazongate:

    “We will continue to make these improvements in the future in much the same way.”

  • http://profiles.google.com/warren.postma Warren Postma

    It’s because he only says you shouldn’t use GNU-Linux. Which is fine, because I use the other Regular Linux. {GRINNING}


  • george

    “His views on software projects are pretty binary: either a strict set of ethics (defined by him) are observed, or it should be shunned.

    The challenge here is that freedom is also a deeply personal thing.”

    Please. The problem is that freedom IS binary. Freedom IS a black and white issue. You are either free, or you aren’t. There is no murky gray, no spread in the spectrum. Either the software is free, or it isn’t.

    No matter how complex your linguistic gymnastics are, free software will always have the high moral ground in these kinds of debates.

  • Anonymous age 70

    I have used Kubuntu for at least 6 years. I am planning on leaving. The distro makes too many decisions for us on a take it or leave it basis. Time to leave it.

  • Paul

    Then let Richard Stallman pay for all the expenditure & bills incurred by Ubuntu & Canonical!

  • ldinon

    I just installed Ubuntu 12.10, the Dash already annoyed me. Then I turned off the online search results from Privacy Panel. And it didn’t work!!! And I’m less interested to know about lenses and other jargon.

    I’m ready to move on to Fubuntu — fork of Ubuntu, or may be back to Fedora.

  • Robert Pogson

    Stop with the strawmen arguments, will you? Canonical can’t sustain itself? That’s too bad. How is that Stallman’s fault again? Trying to monetize Ubuntu is one thing, telling its users to just accept any old crap is another thing entirely.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Very well then, let us spice up this with just a knife-tip full of minced sarcasm 😉

    my goal here is not to convince you folks that the shopping lens is a great feature or that you should use it.

    And you do not need to convince anybody, because the usage of that shopping-lense is on by default. So you just have to convince us, not to turn it off. Or you need to convince us to install and use 12.10 at all.

    My issue here was with the tone of Richard’s post.

    It is OK and understandable, that you are upset about the tone but anyways: the shopping-lense does spy on the user. And it was not you or anyone else from Canonical, who announced this fact.

    So please do not complain, if others do in their words.

    Please discuss the matter and shed some light regarding the question:

    Will this shopping-lense be opt-in or opt-out with the next upgrade of 12.10?

  • http://twitter.com/thezenofjosh Joshua Camp

    When your users became a tradable commodity, you began down this path. When you replied as a PR/Marketing attack dog, and not as a Free Software advocate, you only gave credence to the accusations. You can call spyware a “feature” as much as you are wont, but it doesn’t change the fact that Ubuntu is spyware by default, just because you want to call the same thing by another word. If I punched you in the face and called it spaghetti, am I guilty of assault or cooking?

  • mattcopp

    replying to myself , i got such a big head and i like to ram it up my own A*s.

  • Anonymous

    Do you (or your wife) have a Facebook acouunt? If so, do you have pictures of your daughter on there? You’re saying that Canonical shouldn’t know that you have a daughter–but I can search for you on Facebook (if you have an account that’s not properly locked down) and see the pictures that you’re worried about. And if your daughter is on your friends list (and that’s not locked down), I can go to her profile. And if she’s one of the millions who aren’t smart enough to remove their address, I know where you (and she) live.

    Given all of those possibilities, I’d rather Canonical has that information (with their promise not to disclose it publicly except as required by law) than Facebook, where everyone and their dog (or cat) can see it.

  • Anonymous

    This isn’t really an argument about this feature, but… PCMech had an article on whether PC’s that com pre-installed with Linux are more expensive than those which come pre-installed with Windows. Their reasoning is that all of the bloatware that you get on Windows provides revenue for the computer manufacturer, so the cost for the end-user is reduced.

    If something like the Amazon search results will allow the manufacturer to sell a Linux computer for the same amount (or less) than a Windows computer, then I see that as a Positive. Just because it will get the operating system out in front of potential users.

  • kabamaru


  • Long_Time_Ubuntu_User

    I use Ubuntu since years and Unity too, although I’m a kind of power user but regarding this issue Richard Stallman is absolutely right. Even if it sounds drastic, it fits the definition of spyware, no matter how long you argue against it.

    The key is, that it is called “Free Software” because of the “Freedom [for your data]” and not ultimately because it has no price.

    I think Ubuntu is Canonical’s OS, so you can do what you want with it, but there are a lot of people who are concerned because of their data. All these people and me too, will leave Ubuntu to another derivate or distribution. It’s sad to see how Ubuntu is throwing all this away. It took years to get such a good reputation and you break it in one release cycle.

    You could easily change and end this, what you call “FUD”:

    1. Add Shopping Suggestions as a separate lens
    2. Make Unity + Lenses configurable -> So suggestions can be moved into home dash

    3. Inform the user properly (not with a small icon) that his data are transferred to third party companies.

    But you don’t want to change that. Instead you loose revenue because everyone is removing the amazon lens and will never use it again. I would use it too, but not with every search, but I purged it, because it is simply spyware. Like it or not.

  • Rusty Smith

    I believe that there just wasn’t time enough to type that following, “s,” before implementation.

  • Rusty Smith

    “I feel Jono has been failing miserably as Ubuntu community leader, after this most recent post, it’s become clear he should step down from that position.”

    Fully agree.

  • http://www.lazarenko.me/ Vlad Lazarenko

    Why even bother responding to Stallman?

  • TheTom

    What a weak argment. “I rather like to be shot by a girl then a boy cause she may do faster” How about not being shot at all?

    And for the record: No, I do not have a facebook-account and no, I do not like Canonical to auto-subscribe me if I am using Ubuntu. What to late? Oh, it happened already cause I did not opt-out cause I did not know they would and I need to act to not be subscribed. Hallelujah.

  • Jan Ceuleers

    Jono’s piece does not actually address Richard Stallman’s central argument. He wants us to trade in facts but does not actually offer any; just a statement that his opinion differs from Stallman’s. Jono: does any information get sent to Canonical when a user searches local files, and does Canonical pass this information onto Amazon (however anonymised or otherwise it may be)? If yes: that’s an invasion of privacy, and even if it is your opinion that such behaviour is ever acceptable, what is not acceptable is for you to impose that opinion on unsuspecting users by making it the default behaviour.

  • TheTom

    Microsoft does not pre-install/ship/enable those bloatware. Its the vendors adding it. They could do the same with Ubuntu just anytime. Hey, its free and open software. They could even change the Kernel and add bloatware there if they like!

    But here its Canonical adding that, not the vendor. That means it hits all even those not using that vendor (eg BECAUSE of that bloadware). Fantastic job done :-(

  • t3g

    Jono is an important person at a corporation, so naturally he has to defend the viewpoints and decisions made by the company that employs him. If he were to speak ill of Canonical, he would be fired and therefore we get this wishy-washy mini press release where he doesn’t want to offend either side by saying RMS is both important and right but at the same time calls him out of touch or childish. Pick a side.

    Even if you never heard of the EFF or RMS, what Canonical is doing is wrong. Ubuntu is a market leader for an operating system that has low marketshare in an industry where they predict cell phones and tablets will replace the traditional desktop market. Canonical is saving search queries for basic desktop search on their servers and then sending to Amazon. This happens with a default installation of the operating system and requires them to manual disable or install the lens instead of offering this as an option during install.

    With Canonical storing our queries on their servers, we have no control what is being stored and for how long. At the same time, our searches are stored in their “cloud” and can be handed over to authorities without our knowledge. On top of that, two 3rd parties companies (Canonical and Amazon) have our desktop search queries stored on their servers and having the option to remove them is probably nil.

    This deal does seem one sided as Amazon does NOT promote Ubuntu related products or preinstalled desktops on their site. Its just another way of companies mining our personal information and profiting off of it because Canonical is bleeding money and they believe this is a way to stay alive.

    If you are technical in any way or have a family member that uses Ubuntu, instantly remove the shopping lens. In the future if there is future integration, find ways to disable the online results in the dash. When that option is taken away completely, switch to another operating system or a totally open distro based on Ubuntu like Trisquel: http://www.trisquel.info

  • TheTom

    RMS makes rather clear that the problem is not it does offer that search but that it hits the information it does. He even suggests how to solve that: Add 2 buttons, one saying “Search local”, the other “Search internet”. Or make it a checkbox. But by NO means should it just do so WITHOUT me explicit saying “Yes, search for me online and broadcast my search string around”.

    p.s. just good I am using the commandline to search through my abnormal porn collection. Or did I miss that I need to “export KEEPMYFETICHSPRIVATE=1” and grep did all the time notify Canonical/Amazon/AntiPornClubThatWillPunishPornConsumersHard what I searched for?

    Do I need to worry now that Ubuntu also records and sends out what mp3’s I am listening too, what videos I am watching, what letters I write?

  • aSin

    Looks as the wholw bugreport and all user-comments are ignored. Some of the comments bring valid topics on the table like legal issues with privacy laws in some countries. Strong arguments, all ignored so far.

    Arn’t there supposed to be structures in place to let the community participate?

  • ScottK

    Kubuntu does not ship any of the controversial packages (and won’t). No need to leave.

  • Capt Obvious

    Jono — If you actually believe what you’ve written, then it’s clear that you’ve let your judgement be clouded by a slippery slope of rationalizations that you’ve made to justify why you’re putting Ubuntu’s needs ahead of your users’.

    Instead of trying to align Ubuntu’s needs and incentives with your users, you’ve done something contrary to their interests, and then are somehow surprised when you’re called on it.

    You’re not emulating Apple, because Apple aims to always put their users first.

    You shouldn’t be surprised. This should be a wake-up call: You (and Ubuntu) have wandered off into the weeds. It’s not the UI changes, or your design focus, or your desire to improve the UX. It’s the fact that you’re selling your users, instead of selling something to your users.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Do you (or your wife) have a Facebook acouunt?

    Yes, I have

    If so, do you have pictures of your daughter on there?

    No, shes old enough to decide for herself and I do nt even hae a picture of me at FB or any other social-media site. And there are some relatives of me, that you will not even find a hint for their existence on the net.

    I think, I have my data under control so far… I publish, what I want to see published and I keep private, what seems to me to be my own buisiness only.

    Oher membes of my family are a bit less restrictive but all of them are 18+ so they may make their own decisions.

    And after all: FaceBook is opt-in I log on to FB 2-3 times a month to read something and log out afterwards. So FB is NOT an allways-on “feature” of my software environment….

  • stevepdp

    The timing of Richard’s post is wonderful. December. When the FSF and most other charitable causes work their hardest to secure funds for the next year and beyond.

    I’m an associate member of the FSF myself, because I believe in software freedom, but I immediately read his post as an attempt to be mega-controversial and drive people to the FSF’s donation drive. That, in my opinion, is wrong.

    Why didn’t the FSF raise an alarm when it was more appropriate, when the feature was in development way back in August/September?

    Richard spoke some truths here, but he also took advantage of a difficult situation which is slowly, but surely, being fixed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rene.dujardin.7 Rene Dujardin

    RMS is 100% right, don’t even try to treat him as a child you only make yourself more ridiculous.

  • Chris Harrington

    another distro, much lighter, much cooler, much more useful.

    Suggestions, Avik?

  • http://www.facebook.com/robin.hammond.372 Robin Hammond

    Ubuntu is flatly wrong for installing anything that leaks searches BY DEFAULT. The seach tool doesn’t look like a web browser and any leakage is not a reasonable expectation of the E-U.

  • Sharp

    FUD is a loaded term that has it’s history in Linux’s competitors trying to generate unfounded unease about Linux. You can’t simply address an argument as FUD unless you can also demonstrate how it is unfounded. Here however, I’m not sure I see any untruths to the facts on which Stallman’s argument is based. You imply that Stallman’s facts are inaccurate and dismiss them, but the technical details of the facts he cites are backed up by a blog post by the EFF [1]. If there are specific untruths being propagated by Stallman or the EFF, it would do you well to address them, as they are two big players.

    Finally, nobody disagrees that people have different opinions and values about privacy. The opinion from Stallman and the EFF as I see it (and agree with) is that the user should opt-in instead of opt-ing out, the idea being that choosing to voluntarily send data is preferable to sending data and not being aware of it.

    1. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/privacy-ubuntu-1210-amazon-ads-and-data-leaks
  • BenAdams

    Usually I don’t see eye to eye with RMS, but in this case he is exactly right. Canonical is spying on its users, they have not been upfront about their lack of security with on-line search and they have refused to respond to feedback from the community. Nothing in RMS post is factually inaccurate and therefore it’s not FUD, it’s the ugly truth.

    Canonical has been really not handling this situation well. First with their refusal to take feedback into account, then Mark Shuttleworth’s comment about “we already have root” and now a developer calling any disagreement “FUD”. Is Ubuntu’s development team entirely populated by six year olds? Where is the accountability and desire to make Ubuntu a better experience for its users?

  • Folderol

    In order to be able to dismiss someones words as FUD, and childish, you first need arguments that are based on rock-solid and unassailable facts. Jonos are as substantial as a jellyfish… and just as poisonous.

  • Hats

    Thank you, Mr. Bacon, for providing a compelling argument for avoiding ubuntu at all costs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Oliver-Crangle/100003079637271 Oliver Crangle

    “and tells them how to enable it.”.

    It shouldn’t be default enabled, it should be opt-in enabled. What I find weird about Jono’s post here, is that as I skimmed it, he never once mentioned how easy it was to disable, or how Ubuntu would change it so that it had to be enabled, he merely ranted about how childish RMS was. Which in many ways, lessened Ubuntu’s position on this.

  • Anon

    I’m going to pile on here: I will be not be using Ubuntu any longer.

    I’ve used Ubuntu for many years but have stopped upgrading past 10.04 LTS. I don’t like Unity — imagine how I feel about advertisements and publicizing my search queries?

    I use Linux for development and programming, not for shopping. I like to spend my non-dev time customizing my GRUB bootloader, not worrying whether I’ve disabled every piece of spyware. You’ve lost my support.

  • http://profiles.google.com/andreas.ostrin Andreas Östrin

    Well. IF you share RMS standpoints, then you probably should shun Ubuntu. But on the other hand… not many people do share his standpoint. Let the shunners shun.

  • J. Random Windows User

    As some random guy who doesn’t usually care overmuch about privacy, it already bugs me a hell of a lot that when I punch a phone number into my Android phone, it starts treating it as a search term and giving me results while I’m partway through entering it (until it pops up with the ‘dial this number’ entry on the search list). Knowing that this would happen on my home freakin’ computer…that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. If I have to choose a distro, I’m really not going with Ubuntu now that I’ve heard about this “feature”.

  • Ugly American

    Canonical didn’t write the kernel, the userspace or the browser. All of these projects existed before Canonical and they all had restrictions on use that Canonical knew about beforehand.

    Do you really think that RMS and Linus didn’t put ads in the OS because they lacked the ability?

    Canonical has devolved into a spammer that takes other people’s content, messes it up and plasters ads on it.

    Is that what you aspire to be?

  • Anonymous

    Fedora, Suse (Tumbleweed), Gentoo, Arch, or Debian would all be options, and you might learn something by switching. Personally I’m running gentoo.

  • tracy2130

    What a load. Stallman has every right to call this what it is: a massive intrusion into users privacy, a bow to commercial interest, and a blow to the ideal of user control over their own data that is at the heart of GNU and FSF.

    Yeah, Ubuntu has brought Free Software to millions of people, some of whom might otherwise not have tried it at all. But that’s a lesser-evil type argument, and given the choice of two evils, Stallman doesn’t pick the lesser. He walks away. Getting free software into people’s hands is important, but if you’re going to do it at the cost of their privacy you’d better not do it at all.

    I think Canonical will find that many of the Free Software enthusiasts that have been so critical in promoting Ubuntu adoption agree more with Stallman than they do with Bacon. I think they will also find that unlike Windows users or even Mac users, there is no user lock-in with Ubuntu, and there is little incentive for users to stick with them when they do something heinous like this. There’s plenty of other flavors out there.

  • Lance

    I won’t be using straight Ubuntu anymore. Unity blows. I will be using one of the *buntus or Linux Mint. You should listen to your community. Arrogance will not win over anyone Jono.

  • bratner

    I had a chance to meet Stallman once. I found him to be a person that has to live with a problem. On one hand of his ideas and arguments there are groups of people that invest themselves in a common goal to be “evil”, on the other hand , the same groups of people to be “good”. Government spies after people and can’t be trusted in general but should be trusted to take care of people’s privacy and information security. On one hand evil Corporations care only for their profits and limit the rights of their customers while customers being stupid. On the other hand we must trust the same consumers to be knowledgable users and fight for their rights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alex-Carranza/100000439641975 Alex Carranza

    I’m sorry, but I have to agree with Mr. Stallman here. Why should users private searches be submitted to a commercial entity? I stopped using Ubuntu when Unity was introduced, and the more I hear about these “features” being added to the OS, the less I want to return to it.

  • jack

    Jono Bacon

    Thank you for your post.

    It remind me of Bill Cosby routine, where a child was catch with his hands in the cookie jar. Thinking fast, the child say “I got this cookie for you daddy.” Pointing out that the father does not want cookie. The child say “Can I have it.”

    You know the rules. You the open and upfront nature of Linux. Then you hide and bury the controls for privacy, let along even needing them for Linux. And your based response “We did it for you,” You do not talk about the money that coming to your pockets for selling us to them.

  • Hartmut Noack

    Strange though, that around 90% here seem indeed to share RMS POV.

    And this is not a matter of taking sides, we are not at war: it is a discussion about what a vendor like Canonical does and how this affects the users of Ubuntu. And as of now most users here strongly dislike, what Canonical does regarding the shopping-lens.

    If I should take RMS’ “side” I would never have touched Ubuntu at all, for it comes with unfree compononents. But I (and many others) think, that RMS has a very valid point with his critisizing of the shopping-lens.

  • jeff

    “I believe that freedom is far more than simply freedom of source code or a specific policy around privacy” – Jono Bacon

    Then you agree, the freedom of search belongs to the user and not the builder.

    Right? Or is the money better the other way around?

  • Anonymous

    Honestly, my personal views are aligned closely to Mr Stallman’s in this case. I’m not going to shun something because it shows a different set of values than my own on the other hand.

    In your own words, his viper-like attitude towards things that oppose his own views is “childish”. It causes the sort of attitude towards privacy proponents of disdain, that all of us are reckless and childish in our meaning. That’s unfortunate, because it ends up forcing the entire privacy debate under the rug.

    On the topic of the whole amazon search results shebang, I think a happy compromise is necessary. I think that it should be disabled by default, but on the first search have a button saying “Do you want to enhance your search with Amazon whatchyamacallit?” so that people who happen to use Ubuntu and care about privacy but don’t have the technical knowledge of how to disable such results can say yes or no that they want those results.

  • http://twitter.com/juanfgs Juan Silva

    Information. it can be of any kind and it can be dangerous. Suppose you live in a place where certain kind of ideas or political movements are forbidden, and there is an strict control of internet data traffic (example: China, Cuba, etc). The government could get a complete log of every file that you have accesed in the computer. Suppose you live in a regime where certain sexual behavior is innapropiate ( there are countries that imprison or execute homosexuals) and happen to have adult material of that kind in your computer.

    The statement of “duh you already share everything on facebook anyways” is completely pointless, the point is that the software DOESN’T ASK THE USER if he wants to send that information or not, it’s basically spyware, even if you say that it’s a harsh word it doesn’t matter, it still behaves like spyware.

    I think RMS is doing what he can in order to persuade canonical to take a different approach. Perhaps is not the most friendly way of doing it but he is an old school hacker and he expresses himself like that.

  • Apolyonn

    Freedom isn’t Free. It costs $1.05

  • Andrew B

    I agree that RMS can use alarmist language. However, he does refer to facts in his post – this feature is opt-out when it should be opt-in, and it puts users searches for local information out on the internet.

    It’s actually worse then that. The EFF did some research – see https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/10/privacy-ubuntu-1210-amazon-ads-and-data-leaks – and it turns out that “If it returns Amazon products to display, your computer then insecurely loads the product images from Amazon’s server over HTTP. This means that a passive eavesdropper, such as someone sharing a wireless network with you, will be able to get a good idea of what you’re searching for on your own computer based on Amazon product images.”

    Jono, there are no facts in your post. There are thinly veiled ad-hom attacks on RMS and some bullshit wishy-washy words about different definitions of privacy.

    I must assume that given the highly formal release process for Ubuntu, the way that this feature was implemented in Ubuntu 12.10 is consistent with how Canonical defines/values user privacy. Based on this fact, I can no longer recommend Ubuntu to my friends and family as an alternative operating system. Trust, when violated, is a difficult thing to earn back.

  • http://twitter.com/matthartley Matt Hartley

    Mob mentality in 3, 2, 1….. Derp.

    It’s too bad a mature dialog wasn’t possible here in the comments. Apt-get install new desktop environment — problem solved.

    Apparently no one has ever used a browser or experienced cookies, I mean come on people, wake up and smell the Folgers! lol If this was a browser, we’d install an extension or disable the function, then move on with our lives.

    Am I in love with the feature? Nope, I disable it as I find it distracting. But I also don’t berate a community manager who honestly loves the community and is trying to do right by all involved.

    I say give the man a break and move the ____ on people, seriously. Give Jono a break! Flaming responses about how I “don’t get it” or am “in love with the idea” in 3, 2, 1… 😉

    Hugs and kisses to the commentors, A very happy Ubuntu user

  • ay

    The message in question from RMS is extremely childish and filled with FUD, however he does have a very valid point (which he deludes through his poor choice of language). That said, for a real joke, see the FSF’s list of recommended Linux distributions that you should use instead: http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html

    I sincerely doubt that you’re jumping to run any of these if you’re a Linux user and you’re using your computer as a tool to get things done rather than as a statement or hobbyist experiment. In the end, you benefit from using the Linux distribution that people actually use, the one with significant mindshare, the one people test things against, the one you can find howtos and tutorials for online, etc. This Amazon integration (and any other “spyware corporate stuff”) might be the price way pay for that level of popularity (and all the useful things that come from it) and for me at least it’s worth it, especially since I can (and will) easily remove the unwanted feature with a couple of quick commands and then proceed on my way. A more naive user will leave them in, and that’s fine too, I really don’t care.

    In the end I suspect this will be more FSF/RMS noise than anything productive, Canonical will continue to do what they think is necessary, and the majority of Ubuntu users won’t care either way. If RMS and the FSF really want to do something about this, they should provide a reasonable “competitor” for the “masses” along with all the marketing, testing, and overall infrastructure and beat Ubuntu to the role of the de-facto Linux distribution, and that’s something they’re not going to ever do. Alternately, there’s an RMS package that “sanitizes” the system based on the FSF’s recommendations for licensing — expand that to cover what they consider “spyware”. Either way that would be doing something instead of whining on a blog.

  • https://market.android.com/search?q=puzzleduck&so=1&c=apps PuZZleDucK

    “you have to deal with the fact that Ubuntu is a commercial product”… no dude, it is Ubuntu who has to deal with that… and this kind of move (and now conducting “secret projects”… horrible timing if nothing else) is not going to help them.

  • not gruntled

    The attitude by the Ubuntu people on this issue is dismissive and disgraceful. I’m finished using Ubuntu. Taking my research group to debian instead.

  • ay

    Oh and on a related note, I’d love to be able to buy music from Amazon (MP3 store) with Ubuntu. And not just buy, I mean really use this feature. It used to be supported until Adobe dropped Air for Linux, now we can’t download more than one song at a time from the cloud player, meanwhile it’s a great way to buy DRM-free MP3s, play them on your phone via Amazon’s app, etc. The Canonical offering doesn’t have Amazon’s library and the corresponding iPhone app is complete junk. High-quality Amazon MP3 integration would make, for me, all this “spyware” as RMS calls it, worth it.

  • ay

    You just keep posting things over and over… classy!

  • ay

    Cool. We’ll continue to just use the thing people actually use and ignore you. See? That’s easy. You didn’t even have to post that comment (what is it, your tenth one?)

  • https://market.android.com/search?q=puzzleduck&so=1&c=apps PuZZleDucK

    You didn’t get here from slashdot did you?

  • Rldk

    If you want to be like Facebook, don’t get surprised when your “shares” start to sink (figuratively speaking).

    And one more thing. If I’m looking for something on my disk, this most likely means I already have it and I don’t need somebody online to spam me with “related proposals”. It is nothing like changing the default search engine of the browser.

  • astor

    So, although RMS’s points were valid, you got offended by his tone? Who’s being childish again? Have you ever read anything RMS has ever written? His jobs is to say things as he sees them, not to be the nice guy.

  • scooby509

    “Richard has every right to share his views on privacy, and who am I to tell him or you that he is/you are wrong?”

    You’re the guy who wasted a few minutes of my life reading a pointless blog post?

    Look, you can’t whine about FUD and then refuse to counter it except by talking about everything but the subject at hand.

    Scanning over your post, you discussed: Stallman’s assertion that people shouldn’t use Ubuntu, that you’re not trying to change people’s minds, that people at Canonical work iteratively, that privacy is a personal thing, Facebook, Stallman again, that freedom is personal, that Apple makes pretty things, that Ubuntu wants to make pretty things, Stallman again, and how it’d be nice to donate to FSF.

    Look back at the original post. After three paragraphs of background, he states a few verifiable facts that Ubuntu is relaying personal information to third parties. You never touch on these facts, your entire post talks about everything but.

    What you addressed was the “okay, so what do we do about it” part which is where he makes the obvious point that if you’re concerned about Ubuntu relaying personal information, you should protest loudly. That’s a course of action to remedy a clear problem, which is not FUD at all.

    Really, from your waffling on about how privacy and freedom are subjective, it doesn’t seem like you’re ready to even discuss the issue.

  • Raindog

    Does anybody actually use the “Ask” toolbar? Thought not. It’s the most annoying piece of crap browser add-on, but if you aren’t paying attention when installing any one of hundreds of freeware (and even Oracle JDK….) packages, you’ll get it. Ubuntu should implement it like this, so people that actually care get an active choice to not enable it. Other folks that don’t care and do a click-through install can happily ignore all those Amazon ads in their search results. Me, I’ll just enjoy the benefits of Ubuntu through installing Linux Mint….

  • Nicko

    You should have to “opt-in” to this scheme. I call it a scheme as it is aimed at revenue earning at the expense of user privacy.

  • Sam

    Why is that useful? In what context do I ever want the union of search results on my machine and on the web?

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.kasak Daniel Kasak

    What if you searched for pictures of your weed instead? Pics of a protest where someone allegedly broke the law? I can think of a few reasons why people wouldn’t want private searches becoming public. And let’s be clear … once the data is ‘out there’ … police and governments don’t care too much for search warrants. It’s all free for the picking.

  • http://twitter.com/RandomShiz2 RandomShiz

    Yep, it is really a form of keyboard logging, what if you accidentally pasted something extremely private in one of those? The data is being sent before the user has been able to approve it (by hitting submit), I don’t care who the destination is.

  • ISwear

    I’m more likely to believe RMS on this because he’s contributed more code than you have, Jono.

  • stevepdp

    Have you tried Banshee with it’s Amazon MP3 integration? It really works and also puts a few £ in Canonical’s and Banshee’s pockets :-)

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Shuttleworth’s wage-slave muscles up against Stallman, in a brain fight – merriment ensues at mismatch of the century – like Kim v Hawking on physics!

    Or, as Quincy Adams would say, ‘Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

    Well done, Bacon, there will be some Amazon fidelity-points stamped on your meal-ticket this month. Carry on!

  • Capt. Obvious

    You keep posting these replies over and over. Do you work for Ubuntu? Just wondering.

  • stevepdp

    I think the following solution would work, as an enourmous amount of other applications such as say Winamp, Adobe Flash, Java etc do similar things on Windows:

    During the install process, under the Ubuntu restricted addons question, include a checkbox (pre-ticked) informing the user of the global search feature, and put the privacy policy / legal notice there.

    If such an option was pre-ticked, it would satify Canonical’s needs to have these features installed out of the box, as I would imagine the vast majority of the install base will just go with the defaults. The wiser folks who tend to read dialog boxes before hitting “next” will almost certainly untick the option.

    With the OEM installs, the user could be presented with pre-ticked options on a welcome screen before they create their users and such. Much like Android devices present you with privacy info and options, for example.

    Everybody wins.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    But if the OS is just collateral damage on the way to getting Ads out in front of the ADD-befuddled consumer-units … what then?

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Bacon, you are irrevalent.

  • anonymous

    There is no FUD, controvercy or even debate. When doing a search of local stuff in an Ubuntu desktop, by default, it’s going to send all requests to a central server. At least, you don’t deny that fact, do you?

    Now, it’s very interesting that you compare Ubuntu to Facebook. If your vision of an open source distribution is that it should become like Facebook, then we got your point, and we will start advertizing how bad Ubuntu is for privacy. The point is, with Ubuntu, the product is now the user of the distribution, not the distribution itself anymore. Just like with Google search, or with Facebook. This is equaly bad. The fact that there is some people who don’t care, or that have given-up their privacy over convenience will not change that fact.

    Read this, and try to grasp it: there’s not a single person in this world that would like that searches unrelated to products sold by Amazon, of a local thing on his desktop, is disclosed to a private entity. This is called an anti-feature. Something that the user doesn’t need, or like, but that the software vendor needs to acheive commercial gain. No user wants that. It’s just that it’s there, as Canonical has decided to do so, because there is a commercial interest to do so.

    Now, you can hide and tell that this is a mistake, and that you didn’t get things 100% right the first time. It wont change the fact that Canonical tried to impose to its users something they didn’t want, and that wasn’t in their interest. You might remove the feature, because there is too many vocal people about it, it wont change the situation, which is that we don’t trust Canonical to vouch for the interest of their users anymore. That’s it, the harm is done to the company’s image, and you can’t go back, even if you remove the “feature”.

    RMS is perfectly right to try to fear users away from Canonical product. Why? Because it will happen again. Because Canonical showed once (again?) that it is working against its users, and has no ethic. Therefor, we shouldn’t advise to use products from such a company. Instead, we should advertize and recommend to use plain Debian, which no commercial interest drives, and on wich such thing will never happen.

    It isn’t RMS that is short sighted, but Canonical (or probably you in this case, with this blog post). Why? Because a lot of Linux user share his view. When you write that “freedom is also a deeply personal thing”, you are confusing everyone, because that’s off-topic. We are talking about privacy, and you reply about freedom. Then, either with freedom or privacy, there’s no “personal thing”. Either you enjoy freedom and privacy, either you don’t. The fact that you care about it is a very different mater, which can be discuss separately, but absolutely not be confused. Privacy is choosing what you want to disclose (and this has nothing to do with secrecy). In this case, Canonical may fool users into believing that they do have privacy, when in fact, they don’t, and that has nothing to do with it being a “personal thing” as you wrote. RMS has by the way never denied that Ubuntu provides freedom and that is made of (mainly) free software. Please don’t try to confuse everyone even more, this will only bring more hate. Don’t try to deny facts either.

    But you know what? At the end, it’s quite ok if Ubuntu is doing evil stuff. The only problem is that you guys are PRETENDING that you are doing good, when in fact, you are only working for yourselves, not for the good of users. It’s exactly the same thing as google pretending that they don’t do evil. Talking about the number of users of Ubuntu doesn’t cut it either. This isn’t a metric for how open or privacy respective your software is. And using this as an excuse only exposes even more how bad the situation is. In fact, Ubuntu only exists thanks to Debian, which is the distribution that we should all be thanksful for.

    Last thing: Canonical should realize that it is very easy to make Debian derivatives. This happened recently with MiNT, which drove people away from Ubuntu, and it will happen again. If more evil is done, then it’s going to be more radical, with a lot of users going away. This happened already because Canonical didn’t listen enough to the userbase when they told about how they disliked Unity or Gnome 3. Now, the mistake is repeated with this blog entry. This is, alltogether, a very dangerous slope.

    By the way, your blog is loaded with javascripts which, by default, are spying on me. It has a hard decision for me to allow javascript, and let ghostery plugin allow (one time) to run these pieces of discuss javscript which I hate. Likes buttons for Facebook, google plus, and you know what… Oh, and I have to write an email address. Thanks but not thanks! Probably you should start by ditching such a bad blog software to begin with.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Excellent deconstruction, plus several nice jabs with the rapier – keep it up!

  • anonymous

    The point is, it’s useful for Canonical. You’re the product now.

  • stevepdp

    The developers provided a means to disable unwanted lenses and online searches without effecting the rest of your desktop like so:

    sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-music unity-lens-photos unity-lens-shopping unity-lens-video unity-scope-gdocs unity-scope-musicstores unity-scope-video-remote

    sudo -s echo ‘OFFERS_URI=”https://localhost:0/”‘ >> /etc/environment

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    I think a lot of corporations which might have considered Ubuntu will say “Ditto, let us NOT install ANY spyware flogging BS to employees who we are paying to do work, not shop bloody Amazon”, so brace to kiss that userbase goodbye, Mr Spyworth.

  • stevepdp

    I must agree with this comment. I dislike the fact that I have to use an Adblock plugin to make the web less noisey, and now I have to remove ads from my desktop, phone, reader, game consoles and everything else.

    I feel the desktop should be a place that inspires creativity, rather than encourage consumption habits.

  • stevepdp

    While I do not yet feel confident about the Amazon search feature I would say there are useful applications for it.

    For example, I’m in a pub and talking about a Python book I quite like. I always have my laptop out so it’s quite convenient to pull up the dash and key in Python Standard Library by Example and have it come up with a cover and synophsis.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    This reminds of the old joke:

    What’s the best way to make a whore moan? Don’t pay her!

  • Captain_Fluckfapps
    1. Bacon is a developer of sales-propaganda for Amazon, and amusingly incompetent at his job.

    2. All accountability has been transferred to the Amazon financial health division – ca-chingg!

  • stevepdp


  • Shadus

    Quite honesty, Richard Stallman is a nut… but in this case he’s not wrong. You’re installing standard windows style spyware on Ubuntu computers out of the box. It should be opt-in not opt-out. Until such a time the default policy changes, I can’t recommend installing Ubuntu for anyone.

  • Shadus

    This IS spyware, we’ve been dealing with removing it from corporate computers for years in the form of toolbars and other advertising bundled with apps. Unless it defaults to OPT-OUT, it is 100% spyware no questions asked.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    if impression = delusion, then yes

    His next book will be “The Art of Alienating the Community”, a subject in which he is currently developing an impressive expertise.

  • Anonymous

    If you don’t pay for a product, you become the product. Would canonical consider creating a paid for edition of Ubuntu that doesn’t do stuff like this?

  • Steve

    Windows asks you first. It may be a bubble or a checkbox during install, but they do not collect usage and such without explicit permission. In this case, Canonical is worse than Microsoft at protecting the privacy of their users.

  • stevepdp

    What if you performed a local search for The Darkness, because they’re pretty good, and saw that Hot Cakes had been released and you somehow missed it because they did a weak job of advertising?

    In 13.04, you’ll be able to buy it straight from the dash!

    It has useful applications!

  • l3v1

    Stallman’s views might seem too extreme for some people sometimes, but you have to keep in mind, that usually when he formulates a critical opinion, he talks about the big picture (and sometimes he is extreme, but when you want to drive a point home, you have to be, simply to raise awareness – and he is very good at that). E.g. try to see where a road could lead which starts with a simple inclusion of features such as the search functionality in question. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal, it’s an added feature that can be switched off or uninstalled separately. However, as history and experience tells us, such steps can lead to either a nice place or a terrible one. At this point we simply can’t tell where Canonical wants to go with this. But if you think that they just might remove the opt-out possibility at one point, or gather more user/machine info and share it with 3rd parties, I don’t think you would be extreme – you would simply base your expectations on previous experiences. And, as always, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I think it’s good that Stallman raises awareness that this move must be watched carefully.

  • stevepdp

    Really? I thought Canonical’s founding goal was to deliver on the promise of Free Software. Deliver the best that Free Software had to offer and deliver it in a package that’s beautiful, coherient and on a release schedule that’s predictable etc.

    Shouldn’t Canonical have the right to expect financial reward for the effort and resources it puts into delivering first class software to millions of users who otherwise may not have discovered it?

  • Anonymous

    I agree, one more addition: Why the need to send the users data to a canonical server, if the data could be evaluated locally to fetch the amazon results? Let them extend zeitgiest and let the lens fetch the data, selected by e.g. zeitgeist, from Amazon, then no users data should be sent online…

    If it is an amazon requirement to get certain data, it really is spyware…

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    “Within this wide range of possible communities, this book will be useful for a range of readers: Marketeers – If you want to learn about viral marketing and building a following around a product or service” ~ Life and Times of a Serf, by J.Bacon, page xix Only $39 on Amazon, what a steal!

    Well, you have certainly ‘built buzz’ with this anti-feature, Jono, and the viral buzz is “FOAD, you spying cnuts!”

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Bacon’s only reply – lightly tossed snarcasm.

  • stevepdp

    Isn’t Free Software about having the freedom to make changes and distribute copies? (among other things)

    As far as I’m aware, the packages that Canonical release with the images are Free Software and thus adhere to the Free Software Movement’s four essential freedoms. Businesses who are looking to consume Ubuntu are therefore able to remove the feature either by simply removing the related packages or by forking the package in name entirely and tearing the code apart.

    Compare and contrast that to say the smart phones that these orgs may roll out. I very much doubt they have the same level of freedom with those and you can bet those things are full of potential data holes and time sinks.

    On a side note, it would be interesting to see whether or not the business Ubuntu derivative will ship with this feature enabled by default when the next LTS release hits town.

  • Anonymous

    Never once in your post did you enlighten us as to what the search feature actually does – and how or why this should not provoke concern for our pirvacy.

    You say it’s a personal thing, but from what I’ve read, I certainly won’t be installing any version of Ubuntu or any other OS that includes this “feature”.

    I’m a member of your former LUG, the Wolverhampton one, and your name is often bandied around affectionately by those members who were there when you were last (or those who are still in contact with you). As for me, I only met you once at Linux Expo, so I can’t really comment. But remember where you came from – a long way away from Canonical Towers. Remember when your opinions were not tainted by the pursuit of profit above ethics.

    I’m sure davmor will comment on this at the next meeting this Wednesday!

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    “Richard has every right to share his views on privacy, and who am I to tell him or you that he is/you are wrong?”

    A jabbering nonentity, that’s who you are. You lack the gonads to come out and directly say RMS is wrong on any point he raised, instead substituting with some slimy innuendo psychotricks doubtlessly gleaned from your adware chums at Amazon.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    I admire how you shoehorned ‘hard’ in there – extremely apposite!

  • http://www.facebook.com/nitin.reddy.14019 Nitin Reddy

    Canonical has been a pioneer and the search integration is one source of revenue. Perhaps Canonical needs to find less-intrusive means of generating revenue.

  • HawkinsPeter

    What are the facts that you are disputing? This sounds like pure marketing, not fact disputing.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    RMS = Goldstein

    Bacon’s Drivel = 2 minutes hate

    Now get back to shopping, Serfs!

  • Hartmut Noack

    What if I want to decide myself, if I want to get updated on a bands releases or if I just want to find a file on my disk?

    The problem is not, that something like the shopping lense exists, the problem is, that it is on by default in the background, without even asking.

  • Stefano Costa

    Let alone privacy. Making a search on my machine slower because you think that I’ll find stuff from the internet useful is just wrong. Changing the default behavior of the dash is just wrong. Why in the world should I need to have a “Legal notes” link everytime I want to search for a file? Erm… you have root no more, sorry.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    When you speak as ‘an America’, you make no sense, but I suppose the length constitutes a compelling argument for your stupid compatriots.

  • Hartmut Noack

    So it would be great, if you could decide with a click, that you want to add this feature to your menu OK?

    Many others would not make the same decision. Its like a vegan restaurant would start to serve all menus with an additional schnitzel(organic, happy pork of course…) on the dish.

    All the “fundamentalist radicals” can easily remove the dead meat using their forks OK?

  • Hartmut Noack

    it would be interesting to see whether or not the business Ubuntu derivative will ship with this feature enabled by default when the next LTS release hits town.

    In this you are absolutely right: that would be most interesting indeed.

  • http://dottorblaster.it/ Bl@ster

    I like very much your approach, because I think the same thing: if the user is informed about the “privacy risk”, then we are okay about that.

    A tick in the installer would be perfect for me.

  • Karthikeyan A K

    Look, please tell Ubuntu users that their searches are been transmitted via network by default. Put a banner in front of them when ever they log in. And tell them how to disable it if they wish. Tats it. Why are you not doing it. Its quiet sick that I never knew that Ubuntu transmits my searches somewhere.

    I am sorry I have to show finger to Ubuntu.

  • Robert Osfield

    Jono, lots of words but not a single statement explaining how Richard’s view of the search privacy issue is technically wrong w.r.t Ubuntu search feature. Only that you don’t care for users privacy in the same way that Richard does.

    There is plenty Fear about privacy out there in community, but where is the Uncertainty and Doubt about what Ubuntu search is doing? Seems like as you don’t disagree on technical side then there isn’t any Uncertainty or Doubt. So how could Richard being spreading FUD?

    The only thing you can proclaim is that you are willing to trade end user privacy for investment in developing what you view to be “better” software.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kissingxscissors Lilla Fazekas

    “The challenge here is that freedom is also a deeply personal thing.”

    No, it’s not. We have nothing more to discuss here.

  • Anonymous

    This is something I thought. This kind of thing needs to be completely transparent to the user. Off by default but easily discoverable to be turned on. In addition, the way the data is used should be transparent and customizable to the user. I’m sure Amazon tracks search queries and once it’s the other side of the API canonical have lost control of the data, this should be stated that turning the feature on will allow Amazon to track data and, if possible, link to Amazon’s data policy on this stuff. Most users who use Amazon anyway would be ok with this as Amazon collect data when you search in browser so it is to be expected. However, why do canonical need this data? If they want to collect usage stats then this should be a clearly configurable option that is off, if they want to be able to improve search features by, say, storing your searches against your u1 account, that’s fine too but should be stated and off by default. The user’s data needs to be in the user’s control at all times, if they want to hand over some of that control then that has to be their informed choice but a lot of this data could be collected on their hard-drive and still be useful.

    TL;DR Transparency and control is key to free software.

  • http://twitter.com/shellehs aka??

    Privacy is personal, so you should make sure at least some one who heavily eagerly concerning privacy , has understood WHAT ubuntu did and why and where are they used.

    Does Apple’s success is caused by despiting user’s privacy? Even it does, that doesn’t mean linux distro should not care about privacy, or the users do not care as well.

    Usable, beautiful, elegant and delightful are all of personal feelings, but not as privacy. Privacy is totally deferent.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Community participation ends where the diktat of Spywarth begins – now bend over and take his new structure

  • Martijn van der Lee

    Had I know I was able to remove the Amazon search from 12.10 dash, I might not have replaced it with Mint. Too late now.

  • Anonymous

    I think Ubuntu should be well within its rights to place sponsored / affiliate stuff in the UI but it has to recognize that some people do not want them and it is only fair to provide switches to disable that stuff.

    So stick in Amazon results if you like with your searches, but provide a checkbox to disable or remove that type of search. If web browsers can make it easy for people to add or remove Sherlock / Mycroft style search engines then Ubuntu has no excuse for not doing it.

    The same also for some other parts of the OS which are becoming intrusive, such as the store recommendations. Put that stuff in its own tab and stop stinking up the rest of the UI with it. In fact, putting all the commercial stuff in a tab might be a very straightforward way to demarcate the whole situation – click on the store tab and you will get recommendations, advertising etc. Don’t click on the store tab and we’ll never bother you.

  • Kenguin

    So to be a “popular” OS like Windows at low cost, one has to become … umm … like Windows? Thank you, I’ll stick with what I’ve got.

  • Anonymous

    I’d be more convinced of your claim of spyware if it uploaded those photos while it was at it. As it is, Amazon gets a meaningless jumble of search terms with no idea the context of them or who they belong to. As such, it’s hardly spyware and more like a hamfisted and ultimately stupid attempt by Ubuntu to raise some extra cash.

    I have no objection to a dist doing anything providing they put the user in control of this stuff. This means at least putting a popup on first use informing the user that search terms will be sent to Ubuntu servers and may contain results from “sponsors” and secondly pointing the user to a control panel where they can adjust the behaviour including disabling sponsor links and disabling network searches completely. If people leave it the way it is, then that’s cool. If they choose to change it then that should be cool too.

    Anyway I think RMS went off the deepend on this but the whole storm could have been avoided with a little more foresight of the consequences from Canonical.

  • cslim

    Fellow Geeks/Nerds,

    I think Canonical are doing a great job and the correct thing (overall) for getting Linux on desktops, they just messed up a bit with the initial implementation of this Amazon search feature. I also think that feature should be opt-in, with a clear message that by opting in we are supporting the development of Ubuntu (I think this sort of message would be enough to get a decent amount of people to opt-in… I know I would, because I like Ubuntu and would like Canonical to keep improving it).

    So Canonical, you’re doing a fantastic job – but you messed up with the Amazon thing, however a few minor tweaks will fix that in my book – moving distro would be a knee jerk reaction and completely unnecessary.

    Now regarding Mr. Stallmann… your approach to this, Mr. Stallmann, has really disappointed me. All you needed to say is that you consider the Amazon search feature as spyware, and ask Canonical to address that (which they will. As they said, they listen to the community … i.e. they are flexible, open minded, and will improve the situation).

    Why are you telling people to boycott Ubuntu? – That’s just extremist – in a religious sense – which is scary, and makes me question what you really stand for… no wonder we (the Linux community) never make it big on the desktop!

    I look forward to a future where Linux is a viable alternative to windows for everybody, not just us nerds. But now you, Mr. Stallmann, are helping to hold back that future.

    Ubuntu was (and still is) probably the only contender out of all the Linux distros that can possibly even attempt to remotely challenge Microsoft and Apple from a desktop point of view – and now your trying to destroy that momentum by telling your followers to leave? Why?

    You also disagree with running any form of commercial software on Linux (e.g. Valve’s Steam)… at least Linus Torvalds does not take this stance – he just picks the best software for the job, regardless of whether it is free, commercial, or whether he has to write it himself (e.g. Git).

    The bottom line is that the user should be the one to decide what they run on their Linux box whether that be free, free (as in beer), or commercial, and ironically, you of all people Mr. Stallmann are taking away that freedom of choice!

    At least with that Amazon search feature, I have the freedom to turn it off. All you want to turn off, Mr Stallmann, is the only hope we have of a successful Linux desktop – or perhaps that’s your goal?

    Kind Regards, A Linux Enthusiast.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    The Curse of Stallman (stigma of having your product as a byword for ‘spyware’) will ensure that the answer to your query will be “No!”, forever.

    Just ask yourself if you would store sensitive family details in an online backup called “DataSieve”?

  • Bernd

    Wanna avoid all that bull$h!7 alltogether? Don’t use Unity. I use LXDE as my desktop, primary reason is that i want my “desktop metaphor”, secondary reason is that i dont want to even think about any UI-“Dreams” by Mr Shuttleworth. Same with W8, i would never install it because of Surface.

  • Fred .

    No, it is spyware. It sends information even about local searches to third parties. It does not display product information for a product I’ve looked up, it displays contextual advertisement.

    It is not a convenience, it is an annoyance to be flooded with advertisement everytime I try to run something on my computer.

    A game of words is deception. He try to change the context of the statement to sound much benevolent than it really is.

    Unity is adware and spyware. You apologists can deny it, but people know otherwise. Ubuntu’s reputation is blackened, every tech site (Slashdot, LWN, etc) talks about how Ubuntu is spyware and adware. DistroWatch confirms that Ubuntu is losing users while Linux Mint and Debian are picking up users.

  • Abrams

    If someone chooses to support Ubuntu financially, they should be free to opt-in to the programme.

    I don’t believe RMS’ words and those of the FSF to be particularly hurtful. If anything they raise a genuine concern. It is the direction the business people at Ubuntu are taking that has really hurt it.

  • probuhn

    sorry but poor excuse. the biggest problem is: you wanted to do it in secret and now got busted. it’s all about information. I feel kind of bad as i just wanted to upgrade our student computers. now i will unfortunately have look for another distribution. But I’m glad i didn’ wasted the time yet. It will take a while to get trust again in ubuntu for me.

    so far good bye ubuntu

  • http://zrmt.com/ andylockran

    I disagree; I added the Control4 system later to show context. The point is that if I can interface with my Microwave (even if it’s just a serial connection or a hardware hack to the control panel) then in order for ‘freedom to reign’ I have to have the freedom to control the software.

    Give me your interpretation of the great sage, and I will bow down humbly at his altar.


  • Anonymous

    +1 to this; let’s have linguistic accuracy. You cannot quote a person’s opinion, or their request that you take a certain action based on (unrefuted) facts and call it FUD. If you show that RMS is wrong about his technical understanding of the system (which you haven’t) and that has led him to erroneous conclusions about its privacy properties, then you might be able to say he’s spreading FUD. And even then, I would expect “FUD” to have some malicious or self-serving element to it. That would also need to be proved.

  • Slackware 1.0

    Thank you for clarifying that ubuntu cares almos as little about its users as apple does. You do not even see a problem with the fact that unknowingly, unwillingly personal data of a user like searches for local files are sent to unknown entities.

    So I will stop using ubuntu and stop recommending it.

  • beepbeep

    you don’t have a browser installed?

  • beepbeep

    thanks for changing your FUD-claim, but essentially, this post is another non-answer. RMS is RMS: scruffy, non-polite, hardlined and above all: correct. A lot of text with marketing-lingo and platitudes does not change that. Ubuntu is in it for the money, and tries to hide its actions under the label ‘enhanced user experience’ or some other smooth-sounding crap. Fine, you’re free to do what you like.

    The distrowatch-stats will tell you the effect of the actions soon enough :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=626821780 Chris Sherlock

    Oh bravo. Really.

  • Kegeruneku

    Actually, there are two important points criticized with this feature:

    • Why do Ubuntu NOT offer the choice during installation or at the first user login to enable or disable this feature ? And I see today no easy tickbox to remove it/disable it. I personnally do not appreciate to have this imposed to me, and I’m certainly not alone.

    • The position Canonical and Ubuntu share. With facts like the fake openness of Unity and Launchpad, some people have the right to be dubious about Canonical’s good faith towards open source …

  • Ma

    what might happen, if i use this search-phrase: “contact incorrigible alcoholic Juno Bacon”

    Cheers :)


  • Klöbba

    One should always listen when RMS opines: he has so far never been wrong. Some things are still open, some things took 20 years before it was settled, but so far, he Has. Never. Been. Wrong.

    It’s a very very long post you make to say “RMS is right but I don’t like him scaring our customers”, lightly masked by the deflection technique of “we should work together” to try and shift the focus. Looks a little bit better as you spin it, but you get paid for damage control when Canonical is being stupid, I don’t. :)

    I also think we should all work together, but there are some points of freedom that aren’t negotiable.

    I don’t really have a stake in this but I was waiting for a Jono post to show up after RMS was right and wondered which spin it would be. I was not surprised.

  • former ubuntu user

    This is why I’ve stopped using Ubuntu, because you don’t bother to listen to the people at all.

  • Jerome Haltom

    You’re turning into the people you got into Free Software to be rid of.

  • http://profiles.google.com/yuridenommus Yuri Albuquerque

    What “tone”? In this case, people are getting irritated only because RMS is addressing a purely ethical problem, that is even being treated as a coding problem. It’s not difficult, and does not require much coding, to attend the request from Stallman or from the users. People don’t like to hear that they’re acting unethically.

    Canonical is only being dismissive. They should admit once and for all that the Amazon search on the dash installed without user request is unethical. By definition, it is, indeed, a malware: http://foldoc.org/malware

  • http://profiles.google.com/yuridenommus Yuri Albuquerque

    Ubuntu is worse than free applications that install the “Ask” toolbar on Windows computers. At least these applications ASK for the users if they’d like to install the toolbar.

  • http://twitter.com/raavd Richard

    This article just made it worse.

    You’re actually willing to play down the universal importance of privacy and freedom for monetary gain – wrapped in a nice “its for the customers!”-pitch?

    I hope you realize the current perspective is not only hurting ubuntu, but also blurring the discussion about privacy. It is you who is adding to the FUD.

  • blah

    Well, if your OS is gaining knowledge about your facebook account I would say you have a bigger problem than just search.

  • Dega

    I’m not going to quit using Ubuntu over this since I can simply disable the feature, but Stallman is right about promoting it as a gnu/linux distro. If you really don’t have a problem with having a different vision from the FSF, then you shouldn’t have a problem with hopping off their coattails and removing Ubuntu from that list.

  • Never Min

    i’m using ubuntu 12.04, from 5.10, but i don’t like 12.10, thank you.

    ??? ubuntu 12.04?? 5.10 ??????????? 12.10????

  • Johan Sandén


    By all means keep on spying to make my life easier. But please make your spy-ware optional and have the decency to give me a heads-up (a warning sign) before you snatch data from my computer and sends it away to an unknown destination.

    You wont pick this os/distro because its the nicest looking or because it works out-of-the-box with ever new cool gadget out there. I firmly believe that at least 50% of all installed ubuntus, is a conscious choice based on trust for freedom and self-control. This is a truly crappy way to treat that trust.

    Best regards.

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Does Amazon deliver schnapps to the home yet? If yes, I suppose that explains why Bacon is such a fanboi.

  • ay

    Well, ironically they switched back to Rhythmbox as the default media player app ; ) I’ll try it again.

  • Anonymous

    The average ubuntu user has many options, mint comes immediately to my mind, elementary is coming pretty good too

  • icewater0

    “Do I need to worry now that Ubuntu also records and sends out what mp3’s I am listening too, what videos I am watching, what letters I write?”

    It’s storing this now locally in zeitgeist, at this point I would not be shocked if one day Ubuntu without notification starts sending that information along to its trustworthy anonymizing if-you-have-nothing-to-hide servers.

  • icewater0

    The challenge of course is that privacy is a deeply personal thing and the way in which you define your privacy expectations will likely radically differ from each of your friends, and vice-versa.

    Honestly, I can’t believe I’m reading this. It doesn’t matter how anyone “defines” their personal privacy expectations – you need to get my explicit permission before you start sending my local searched off to your servers.

    In my opinion, everyone in the decision chain that allowed this to happen – silently and transparently without any indication to the user – needs to be fired. That includes you, Jono, if you played a part in this.

  • Anonymous

    Another issue besides the main point at stake, is Canonical’s reaction to community opinion. I have yet to find one single voice from the community in favour of this feature and the way it’s implemented. Nevertheless, every opinion is simply ignored, or you are reminded that “they already got root”. All this argument, and the RMS “FUD” (which obviously isn’t so) could have been avoided if Canonical, for once, just listened to their own users. Fortunately is far easier to change linux distros than to move away from windows…

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    You are either faking this infantile naiveté for effect or are genuinely ignorant about the meaning of words you use – either way, a campaign of Boycott is an original and best Irish political tool of economic warfare wielded by the relatively powerless against arrogant fools who otherwise refuse to listen, and has absolutely nothing to do with religion. It works BECAUSE there is nothing capitalists hate more than the knell of looming bankruptcy. He who fails to listen to the masses of ‘little people’ he relies upon gets his wallet rinsed until the humbling enlightenment soaks in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maj-Variola/100003091129531 Maj Variola

    JONO is very polite and articulate in this discussion. And his Ubuntu goals are great. But here he is wrong and RMS caught a good one. This is a decision too biassed in the direction of convenience rather than infosec.

    Ubuntu should not be shunned but an ack by Ubuntu and fix in future ubuntu”UXs”.

    PS: I don’t use the ‘dash’ I like Xterms :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Maj-Variola/100003091129531 Maj Variola

    OTOH RMS’s binary ethics :-) gets people who matter thinking and the rest of the herd just write us all off anyway.

  • Robert

    Here’d be the way I would do it:

    1) I search in the dashboard for something. 2) I get my local results 2a) below the results is a horizontal separator and under it says “Do you want to make your searches work better/work for you?” with a button beside it saying “Learn More” (think the notification that pops up in Firefox the first time you open it). 3) Clicking Learn More introduces the global search feature, gives me a list of options I can opt in to, what data is given, with a box to save my settings.

    To opt out after the fact, go into the main settings and go through menus until you find the toggle boxes (like it is now, I believe).

    It’s one thing to change. Change is good in some cases. But when you’re deviating a great deal from the expectations of Linux-based systems, it is better to be up front about it. If you’re going to be dismissive to RMS and those like him (I’m indifferent, personally), you can’t say that you’re after bringing “Free Software… to everyone” as you’re saying views of part of the user base won’t be taken into consideration due to conflicting with the company’s needs. If that’s the case, just own it.

  • Semantics

    I don’t think I would use Bread as an example, here. Sourdough, for instance, is a bread that is often eaten with potato soup. 😉

  • stevepdp

    I do, but a search on the dash is much quicker.

  • Andy

    Sure it has. I mostly stopped using linux because of idiots like him. I got tired of seeing rants about how useful software wasn’t pure enough to be allowed, and how people like me, who like OSS but will accept closed source drivers, are evil nasty people who are harming the movement. Tell you what… if companies knew that releasing software and drivers for linux wasn’t going to lead to calls for them to open source everything they’ve ever written, more of them might. As it is, their options are to release it closed and get yelled at, or not release it and get yelled at. They’re mostly going to take the cheap and easy option, if they’re going to get yelled at no matter what.

    People don’t like being ranted at. I’ve stopped trying to support OSS and Linux to people, because a lot of them run across RMS and say “Why would I want to be associated with this whackjob?” That hurts Linux and open source a lot more than one company disagreeing with your search preferences does.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.freeheart Kevin Darien Freeheart

    The problem I have with RMS’s statement, and several I see here really comes down to this…

    This is a Unity flaw, not an Ubuntu flaw. I don’t have this happening on my Ubuntu 12.04 system running Cinnamon. You wouldn’t have it running Mate, you wouldn’t have it running KDE (until they put it there).

    If you don’t like what a specific app does, remove it. It really is that simple. It’s not spyware – the definition of spy has “covert” in it. There might be privacy implications, but as Jono mentions, that runs a spectrum and is a largely personal matter.

  • stevepdp

    Quite a few downvotes…

    Perhaps I should’ve done some research before providing this opinion.

    I can be a bit of a conspiracy prick at times… I’ve a talent for being overly critical and sometimes finding stories between the lines that aren’t really there.

    Sorry friends, I’ll try not to be so judgmental in the future.

  • anonymous

    Why would the amount of contributed code have anything to do with this topic?

  • jza

    “No, the Awesome Bar does not send search queries and keystrokes to google by default.”

    Are you sure? At least my Firefox installations have defaulted to the “Show Suggestions” option being enabled in the search bar right click menu. (And it obviously can’t pull suggestions without sending your partial queries)

  • b0101

    This Ubuntu desktop is a BUSINESS WORKSTATION. I’m working I’m not on here to buy things. I don’t want ads crammed into my eyes. As a Systems Security Engineer this is a key logger plain and simple. Doen’t matter where the results go to it is still a KEY LOGGER.

    If you want me to “worship at the church of Ubuntu” remove this spyware or I’ll remove you. If you want to include a store such as Ununtu1 and when I open the applicationTHEN it searches the Internet fine. I don’t want my EVERY search key logged.

    You got a good idea with the store but you are screwing it up with the general searches in the dash.

  • http://twitter.com/gustavoYaraujo gustavo araújo

    I think UBUNTU was make thinking about a better AND FREE OS to everyone. Well, I’m from Brazil and here we don’t care about Amazon stuff. Why would we want search anything there ?? There is ANOTHER PROBLEM. In some countries(like mine), internet speed sucks(some places don’t have a velocity much than 30kbps), so, when thay try use dash the results takes some looonnng seconds to appear. I respect Richards view and i think the solution is simple: just take off this feature or transform it on a aplication or put a option for choose between yes/not before we install ubuntu. that’s simple !!!

  • OpenBox-User

    Just apt-get purge unity-lens* and use a nicer Desktop like XFCE or Openbox. Less clutter, better interface, and you don’t have to worry about all this extra guff.

    Or better yet, install a minimal Ubuntu and just add in the stuff you want. There’s no need to use the Unity desktop. A lot of people hate it (including my wife who couldn’t figure out where an app minimized itself to or why it wouldn’t close.)

  • Anonymous

    Let me clarify my comment:

    It’s not adware, it’s useful information.

    It’s not spyware, it’s convenient.

    War is peace. Freedom is slavery.

    Ignorance is strength.

  • ??? ???

    RE: FUD

    I can see what you are trying to say, and first let me say I appreciate what Ubuntu and Canoical are doing for the community.

    As far as having the search bar (forgive the incorrect name) connecting to the internet and sending a search to insert “suggestions” (advertisement) this was done too hastily.

    Aside from the privacy issue here the thing that is upsetting me about this is the fact that you are not really given an obvious CHOICE from install if you want this feature to be enabled or not. It would be far more responsible to ask the user during install (excluding the feature from live distro please) if they want to include it.

    You could even say something positive mentioning that the feature supports development… Presented like that I might even install it.

    However as we stand here now, Fear, uncertainty, and doubt seem warranted. I feel uncertain about canonical’s decision and doubtful of their future choices in regards to privacy & advertising.

    I also think that people who do not have the skill to look at the code may be fearful of just how far these privacy issues go. (Look at what happened to google PR wise in regards to the original EULA on the “Chrome” browser)

    Instead of simply responding to RMS and defending your position (which I think is reasonable) I would encourage you and Canonical to make a policy on dealing with privacy and particularly ADVERTISING within the Ubuntu distros.

    From there inform the community of what the policy will be going forward, any flakiness on this issue will discourage your power users.

    We as part of the GNU/Linux and Ubuntu community offer Ubuntu to our family members and friends who are less skilled with computers and to people who are interested in Linux but have never used it before. This is a great way to bring freedom to the masses, and encourage the development of quality free and or open source software.

    Keep in mind that the “power users” those who are skilled enough to use a more advanced distro like Debian and choose to use Ubuntu because they enjoy it…. have a significant influence on the distros popularity with novice and casual users who are new to GNU/Linux.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  • ububu

    “The challenge of course is that privacy is a deeply personal thing and the way in which you define your privacy expectations will likely radically differ from each of your friends, and vice-versa.” You’re totally wrong. Privacy means no info leaking. And it does leak in Ubuntu.

  • http://twitter.com/nitrofurano nitrofurano

    “sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping” is the very first thing i did when i help fresh-installing Ubuntu 12.10 on friends’ computers – i’m somehow concerned that this is not enough…

  • http://twitter.com/nitrofurano nitrofurano

    i must recognize that Ubuntu did a great thing: it helped me to care more about Debian (earlier i were more RedHat (now Fedora) and Mandrake (became Mandriva) ) – i were using Crunchbang distro since they started to be an Ubuntu-based distro, and i migrated to Debian with them – Crunchbang is really an awesome distro if people want to try a really good Debian-based distro, even far better than Mint-Debian in my opinion (better forum support, less broken dependencies from repository, etc.) – i really hope this Amazon-Lens issue will be a lesson for Canonical for respecting more Ubuntu users

  • http://twitter.com/nitrofurano nitrofurano

    and a question i want to ask about Grub that juststopjono raised in my mind: why, when we have both Ubuntu and Debian installed in different partitions, when we update grub from Ubuntu, it doesn’t add Debian in the boot list as well, as Debian adds Ubuntu? weird, isn’t it? :S

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Grammar Gestapo Fail – in most common law (i.e. English-speaking) countries you can still ‘lay an information’ before a judge to initiate a private criminal prosecution.

  • Jo Nas

    your post is FUD. just tell it the way it is: you want/need the money from amazon. it’s sad that not only did you introduce donations, which i would gladly have paid, if it wasn’t because you sold my soul to amazon. shame on you, canonical.

  • http://www.CementScience.com/ Mr. Cement

    I will use Ubuntu 12.04 for the coming FIVE years, so I do not care whether Amazon is in Ubuntu.

  • anoninja

    Richard Stallman is a zealot. While the rest of us want to make software that’s useful for the broadest base, he wants you to stop making software at all if you don’t agree with every single piece of his free software doctrine. He is the software equivalent of one of those gun stockpiling anti-government extremists that make me pray to God I never get a flat tire in middle America. “Childish” is a perfectly accurate descriptor of Stallman’s behavior on and off for at least the past decade, so I really wish you hadn’t apologized.

    Keep fighting the good fight, sir.

  • mts

    You may call it FUD. I believe RMS characterizes it as “It behooves us to give Canonical whatever rebuff is needed to make it stop this.” You are being rebuffed – now remove the spyware from Ubuntu.

  • OD

    This article/blog post is a perfect example of how you can spend a lot of words to say essentially nothing but still sound like you gave an answer.

    Is this blog post written by a technical person or a PR person? It sure sounds like the latter.

    RMS is blunt, concise and correct. You can try and water down the issue with mixing in “my version of freedom is different than your version of freedom” but at the end all you do is water down and muddy up the issue enough to leave it in status-quo while you collect profits. That has been the way of doing business and politics in this country for a while now and this article is a perfect example of it.


  • http://twitter.com/seeitcoming Carl van Tonder

    Jono, I think it’s disingenuous to take such a hands-off approach to privacy.

    Ubuntu developers are in a position to make sweeping decisions that have wide-ranging consequences, and the existence of people who are blind to the dangers of privacy breaches does not suddenly make that desirable functionality.

    Secondly, you say that you’ll engage seriously with someone who has “an accurate set of facts”, but you don’t seem to be disputing any of RMS’s facts at all. As sometimes happens, RMS is actually taking a reasonable position here; it reflects badly on Ubuntu and Canonical, therefore, to try and characterise it as free software zealotry.

    RMS is saying that anyone who uses Ubuntu for ideological reasons (which you as community manager would hope is a large percentage of the user base, right?) should look elsewhere, at least until such time as the operating system stops sending personal information to a tax-evading, destructive and generally badly-behaved company for profit. That seems fair to me.

  • Lucas Sallovitz

    Wikipedia entry on spyware starts with: Spyware is a type of malware (malicious software) installed on computers that collects information about users without their knowledge.

    So it’s pretty clear that the current dash implementation fits the definition, using two buttons is not only more transparent to the user but as stated in other comments probably most useful since it doesn’t mix results that don’t naturally go together.

  • Klöbba

    There never is an absolute right to make any money for what you do. Your broken business model is not our problem.

  • Thomas Kluyver

    I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but to my mind, ‘spyware’ would send information without the user seeing – such as logging passwords or browser history. Doing an online search and showing the user the results is not spyware.

  • Quiliro

    You have not addressed any of the issues that Richard Stallman has presented. I see your article as personal attacks to his personality. Your attitude tryes to make people think you are not patronizing them. When it is the other way around.

    Your real intentions are clear to me: defend Ubuntu’s proceedings even if they would be as bad as he may say. You have a right to be partial to your employer. But that does not make your article well backed or have the right argumentation for the rest of us to take your side.

  • Anonymous

    “The goal of the dash in Ubuntu has always been to provide a central place in which you can search and find things that are interesting and relavent to you; it is designed to be at the center of your computing experience. Now, this is a big goal, and we are only part-way along the way to achieving it.”

    While I am not as passionate as RMS, what makes Canonical / Ubuntu think results from Amazon are more relevant (or interesting) than results from ESPN, Microsoft, the KKK, or any other wacky thing out on the interwebs? Why not have the dash submit my query to everyone in my contact list to see if they can help me find whatever random string I typed? Because that would be silly? Because if I wanted to do that, I could send e-mail or ask on IRC or post to Twitter / Facebook / Google+?

    It might surprise developers to learn that people have heard of Amazon. If they want to search Amazon (AFTER searching LuLu, O’Reilly, and other sites), guess what? AOL is dead. Folks have this marvelous new tool called a “web browser” to do that now.

    I don’t want or need a monolithic program that tries to automatically anticipate my every whim or correct my spelling unasked or ask “Did you mean X instead of Y?” That’s why I left Microsoft behind in ’93. It’s why I find Google’s results increasingly unhelpful. Rather than searching for what I asked for, it ignores the parts it doesn’t like in my search string, and then returns the haystack instead of the needle. Kind of like seeing Amazon results when I begin typing the name of an application I want to run. I’m waiting for Amazon results to show up when I type [grep -r “^author.*” *].

    That said, it wasn’t horribly difficult to type “sudo dpkg -P unity-lens-shopping”. It’s just a virus I will probably have to keep remembering to treat with each upgrade.

    If Canonical et al wants to make Shopbuntu or Webuntu or Consumerbuntu, fine. Just keep it separate from the productive tools that I use.

  • GuiMaster

    Mr. Bacon and Mr. Shuttleworth refuse to wake up. They’ll sink the good ship Ubuntu before they open their eyes. How much more criticism is needed before someone who actually cares will begin to listen, and change their ways? But it’s evident that they don’t care, and that is why they refuse to hear.

  • Zack

    There is no great sage, and there is certainly no altar. Still I can give you an interpretation like the one rms would give; it’s not really hard to predict:

    If your microwave runs software that could be routinely exchanged for other software, the four freedoms should apply. So yes, that software should be free.

    In your particular setup with your microwave, it sounds like an exceedingly useful thing to be able to do; almost as useful as having a remote printer notify someone when a paper jam occurs.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve made a couple of comments on this already, but wanted to add this as well. I think Richard Stallman’s “solution” to the problem is a bit too extreme. Here’s why: If you’re supposed to “shun Ubuntu for Spying” then what are you going to recommend in it’s place? And how easy will it be for the average user to learn that distro? Like it or not, Ubuntu is one of the easier distributions for someone coming over from Windows (or Mac) to get the hang of.

    Personally, if you feel strongly about the online search, then here’s my suggestion for handling it at your FLISOL Events: Educate the user about the feature. Don’t be judgmental about it. Just tell them what it is, what it does, and what your concerns are with it. IF they agree with your concerns, then uninstall it (sudo apt-get remove unity-shopping-lens) or disable it in the Privacy section. If they don’t share your concerns, DON’T TRY TO PERSUADE THEM. It’s their decision if they want to include it or not.

    The notion that installing Ubuntu tells Canonical that what they’re doing is right, is ludicrous If everyone who installs Ubuntu disables (or removes) the shopping lens, then Canonical will get the message a lot clearer than people not installing Ubuntu. Because even if you install Mint, or another derivative, then some people inside of Canonical will point out that the migration has been happening for a while, so it’s not related to this lens. But, if you disable or remove the lens, then those people have to face the fact that no one (or only the minority) wants it.

    Have a great day:) Patrick.

  • Anonymous

    I am a long time Ubuntu user, big fan of Ubuntu and Canonical but I have to admit that pushing the amazon search into the dash was a very short sided decision. Canonical should admit that they made a bad decision and move on. Post like this only add to the flame and division in the community. There is no doubt it is really hard to run an organization like Canonical and fully adhere to principals of free software, but the least you can do is to admit to your community that you made a mistake and move on instead of hurting them or attack the ideology that brought many of them to you in the first place. That being said, I am not going to give up that easily on something I have love and enjoyed for many years. I still believe in what Canonical is doing for freedom of users and hope that they learn from this and change course.

  • Hartmut Noack

    So many comments and still one question unanswered: Will the shopping-stuff be opt-in or opt-out?

    And this is essentially, all that matters now.

    Marc Shuttleworth calls me a “depressed hipster” for disliking Unity alltogether, maybe a little campaign to smash one specific thing (like an opt-out shopping-lens) could steer up my depressed spirits a bit. No sir, I am not depressed, I feel quite good not accepting wrong being right and for being a bit stubborn in that.

  • Siglo

    Richard Matthew Stallman is fast becoming the Takis Fotopoulos of the FOSS world.

  • Siglo

    Also, contrary to the “users don’t have the right to an opinion because they didn’t pay for this software” attitude of far too many in the FOSS world (Mark Shuttleworth is such an example and another “shining” example are the “bright lads” behind GNOME 3), developers MUST listen to the users if they want to succeed.

    If you don’t satisfy your users, you’re not going anywhere. If Ubuntu suddenly lost its userbase due to Canonical’s decisions, then other financial backers would very easily and very quickly go away. If FOSS developers can’t see that, they need their heads checked.

  • anonymous

    RMS can be irascible, difficult, outspoken, etc. He is also frequently proven to be right by subsequent events. So if you think he’s wrong in this instance (and perhaps he is, perhaps he isn’t) then I would suggest waiting 5 or 10 years and revisiting the matter. Perhaps if you do this several times, as I have, you’ll learn not to dismiss his views quite so easily.

    As to Ubuntu, I have a sizable server operation using it. I’m planning the conversion to another Linux distribution as you read this. I simply cannot afford to have an operating system whose maintainers think that is even a little bit acceptable to ship information off to third parties. That’s not just stupid, it’s insanely stupid. It’s also insulting and abusive to Ubuntu’s users — you know, those of us who have installed and used and supported the operating system all these years. Not that this particular hole would affect my operation: it wouldn’t, because my firewalls would stop the data transmission. But I don’t know what stupidity Canonical will try next, I don’t know whether I’ll find out about it before it happens, and I don’t know whether my firewall rulesets will stop it.

    I can’t take that chance. I am charged with running a highly secure environment, and not only my job, but the existence of my organization depends on our ability to maintain that security. I can’t afford the risk of running an OS whose maintainers are so appalling tone-deaf to the absolutely valid privacy concerns of their own users that they would actually try to justify this nonsense.

    Every single person involved in approving this fiasco should be publicly fired from the Ubuntu project and publicly banned from it for life. That won’t happen of course; Canonical’s ignorance and arrogance make it impossible.

    So, to quote Elric: “I do the only thing I can do. I go.”

  • daniel

    Stallman tiene razón no le gusta Ubuntu por que es Open Source y te espia lo mismo que windows

  • DemocideHappens

    “there is enough misinformation and FUD on the Internet without us all adding to it”

    Can you point out even a single factual error in Stallman’s post? If so, why don’t I see it in your post? If not, why mention “misinformation” except to make a false implication that Stallman’s post contained it? It seems, if anyone’s dealing in misinformation, it’s you.

    As for the FUD claim, generating fear, uncertainty, and doubt about actually bad things that one should in fact be fearful, uncertain, and doubtful about is perfectly legitimate. Claiming something is FUD carries with it an implication that it is based on misdirection, if not outright falsehoods; as we’ve already established, you’ve failed to identify anything of the sort in his post. Stallman simply stated facts about a danger and suggested ways to defend against it.

    While you can try to claim his post exaggerates the threat, that simply is not the case. The very nature of FOSS, the FOSS community, and the word-of-mouth way in which FOSS use spreads, means that political activists and dissidents from around the world — those most likely to be put in actual physical danger by Canonical’s reckless actions — are naturally going to make up a disproportionately large percentage of the GNU/Linux userbase, and thus of Ubuntu’s userbase.

  • GuiMaster

    you can sudo apt-get purge Amazon, but you can’t sudo apt-get install trust. This is an issue of trust. But then again, how many companies let Microsoft spy on them everyday?

  • GuiMaster

    It’s an issue of trust. Firefox isn’t responsible for the “targeted advertising” that you install NoScript to block. On the other hand, Ubuntu IS responsible for the “targeted advertising” in Unity.

  • GuiMaster

    Canonical is the lesser of two evils, that is your argument. How about neither Facebook or Canonical? Is a little corruption okay in your government because another country has a lot?

  • GuiMaster

    A separate lens specifically for Amazon search would solve the problem. This has already been mentioned all around the web about ten thousand times in the last few months.

  • GuiMaster

    People will go to Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Linux Mint, etc., because they still get all the benefits of Ubuntu without the B.S..

  • GuiMaster

    The UI changes should have served as a wake-up call to everyone of what was to come from Canonical. Mark Shuttleworth makes a decision, Jono Bacon blindly follows, and to hell with what anyone else thinks!

  • Captain_Fluckfapps

    Well said … and by the same token there goes practically every serious business that might otherwise have considered using Ubuntu – now relegated in IT vox populi to a tainted byword for Spyware – HazRoot Dictator, yoo a foo, boy!

  • Chauncellor

    I like zeitgeist. It’s a LOCAL database of what you do. Open source and LOCAL.

    This is something completely different and unacceptable. I’ve spent so many hours for so many years helping with Ubuntu, attending UDS, etc. etc. And now this. Controversial design decisions? Fine. Controversial app decisions? Fine! Unity? Awesome, love it. Privacy problems? Now it’s gone down to Google’s status. It’s no longer ‘free’ when you are the product.

  • Auringal

    I’m using Ubuntu since 7.04. Unfortunately since version 11, and I’m honestly sucks migrating to another Linux distribution

  • jolo

    have you implemented any mechanism to turn this off? And I mean a visible easy-to-use mechanism not some hidden tweak one needs to hack for like you did with e.g. other tweaks in Unity?

  • anonbychoice


    I’m disappointed. Really. You are better than this.

    When doing a search with a web browser you expect network results. Not when you search your hard-drive for a personal file that the search be “sanitised” and sent off to amazon…this is really wildly intrusive and wrong…and how anonymous is it when amazon zooms back pictures of things straight to your IP? There is absolutely no way that this should be on by default. You argument is apples and oranges.

    And as to your belittling 3,2,1BS…really really condescending… people are not flaming here. They are being VERY reasonable, with very reasonable objections, and are objecting further to the thinly veiled personal attacks and condescension by Jono and now your condescension. If you have something worthwhile to add about why you think it is okay for ubuntu to turn its users into a product for sale to advertisers, please do say it.

    I however have heard nothing to make me think that this is OK.

  • Anonymous

    These latest flashy online Unity features don’t help me directly, but they also do not harm me. If they are useful for other users, then let them in.

    I continue to be a great fan of Ubuntu. I pray for its success (and will make a donation in the near future).

  • Anonymous

    These latest flashy online Unity features don’t help me, but they don’t harm me either. If they are useful to other Ubuntu users, then I welcome them.

    I continue to be a great fan of Ubuntu. I pray for its success and will shortly make a donation.

    Thank you all.

  • Andreas Nicholas

    I am switching off Ubuntu to Sabayon until Richard Stallman’s requests are met, frankly I don’t see why you’re making a big deal about this, it was a bad idea everyone said so, at this point YOU are being childish. This is unfortunate as I was optimistic about the Ubuntu on Android project.

  • http://twitter.com/matthartley Matt Hartley

    Some folks here were being reasonable, ample others, not so much. Guess it depends on which area of the thread ones reads, dunno.

    I stand by the above statement 110%. This entire thing is as dumb as suing someone over spilling recently purchased coffee. I don’t like the feature, therefore, I don’t use it (others can do this with the distro instead). It’s not rocket surgery. 😉

  • gigi

    in conclusion, i will not use ubuntu anymore … 😉

  • bp

    There was no rant. Read what he said before you rant.

  • bp

    inane argument. “Facebook is worse if you use it so its ok for canonical to invade your privacy”?

  • http://twitter.com/Federico_II F2

    Another view on this is that RMS was looking for some publicity to stay relevant, and was happy to ignore that:

    1. things he is concerned with can be trivially disabled if you have paranoid scenarios in mind, and

    2. steps were consistently taken to increase privacy of Ubuntu users, in this area and in other ways, throughout the project’s history – Ubuntu has a centralized privacy settings tab that enables you to clear things you would have to chase down the various data nests in different applications. To my knowledge, this is the only non-mobile OS who does that.

    If you want to find something deplorable, you may want to look at RMS throwing the first stone by reading his article – just the quote “free software won’t spy on you, unless it’s Ubuntu” qualifies it. Check Jono’s tone, check RMS’s, and then check the facts — I think there is really nothing more one could ask.

  • Steve

    Canonical is getting $$ from Amazon when it’s users buy products via the dash.

    Thus this is advertising. Nothing more, nothing less. End of Story. Period. Fullstop.

    And even worse, you are doing so superstitiously – users expect to search their computer and instead you share their information without asking!! and show them results from a commercial partner.

    I am horrified that Ubuntu has pulled the rug on years of carefully won user trust :(.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1026609730 Jim Balter

    You failed to point out any error in RMS’s statements. All this talk of “deeply personal” is completely obfuscatory BS … if you leak search info without the user’s permission then it is indeed “deeply personal” and you’ve violated it.

  • jackson

    Ezoe, you are right buddy. I don’t know what Canonical wants to get by doing all this. Neither would I like to know their views on privacy. What I am concerned about is my privacy. At times, I would like to look for some personal stuff which I would not want to be public. Lung Cancer Symptoms

  • korikisulda(???)

    I already hated Canonical, now I despise them. Now… Mint or Debian?

  • greg S

    Pretty strong words… I kinda adore them they are the most exiting company I have ever seen its like Hollywood there are lots of challenges accomplishments scandals everything! But I have liked everything they have introduced so far 😉

  • korikisulda(???)

    Ah, then I suppose we will have to agree to differ then 😉

  • greg S

    Fair. I’d choose Debian BTW

  • greg S

    You say this much better than stallman does. But in Canonical’s defence amazon web results are a good indicator that your info has been sent somwhere

  • Anonymous

    Richard Stallmam is peculiar, another friend of mine is too. When I release all my information on the net, he is very upset. I am not very concerned actually.

    But I didn’t knew that the Dashboard, searches OUTSIDE. IF I KNEW IT I wouldn’t bother. So the intent of Richard, in my case has been effective. I KNOW NOW that the Dash board, is A POSSIBLE SPY. Some years ago ( maybe 5 or 6 ) I didn’t change my email provider to gmail cause of the fact that I didn’t wanted information to go around in other jurisdictions the simple way.

    At that time I COULDN’T think that this could be SO WISE.

    Actually the problem is that BY LAW, any state could oblige some infomation to be revealed. The problem isn’t what UBUNTU DOES, because the same things are done by Google. But I know that any communication to Google is PUBLIC, while I didn’t knew that the same was with the DASHBOARD. UBUNTU should REMIND that there is communication to the outside. Afterwards the decision is mine !!! . Not DOING IT IS BAD !!

  • Marcus88

    Stallman is liberal Fascist (yes I know thats a strange concept). He claims to believe in freedom, but actually he only believes in freedom on HIS terms and HIS definitions. He is the same as any other dictator.

  • Roody

    “In the eight year history of Ubuntu and Canonical we have always put privacy forward as a high priority across the many, many different websites, services, and software that forms the Ubuntu platform and community.”

    May i ask you a question how you are associated with “Ubuntu” or “Canonical”?

  • Guest

    Ahh, I’m tired seeing or hearing “with this technology/product you can do this, you can do that” thing. I feels like I’m a 3 years old kid tricked by a cheap lollipop.

  • Ric Moore

    When I used Ubuntu and the lens happened, I wrote in the user forum that it was a good idea to help support Ubuntu development, via click through, of my Amazon purchases. NO PROBLEM! But, I noted that if there was an icon to easily switch the feature on and off everyone, including loud mouth, would STFU. When I was ready to buy something, I could click it on. Otherwise, I would click it off. Guess what? I got moderated off the list, being lumped in with the users telling Ubuntu to f*ck off. Now I use Debian and contribute, as I can, according to whatever I might have to lend to a fellow user’s problem. I now support Debian roundly and encourage others to use it.