domingo, 16 de diciembre de 2012

RMS calls ubuntu spyware. Ubuntu fails at damage control

Many shall wonder what use is there for this blog. The story goes as follows: This year I upgraded my old ubuntu 10.10 to 12.04, and after going through various shocks, I actually got used to it. And the unity desktop. This upgrade made me interested once again in sharing bits of knowledge about ubuntu, and opining about foss.

Little did I know that after I finally decided to start the blog. I learned that ubuntu was going to include ads later. That is such a turn off. All my motivation was killed. Really. What will I do now? Continue promoting ubuntu and just tell people to uninstall the adware? Look for a fork? Like I mentioned, I liked unity and I wanted to promote it. But now what? So that explains the lack of content from this blog.

Today I have to say more things about Ubuntu's Amazon adware

RMS does not like it

Anyone not shocked about Richard Stallman calling it adware and generally not being happy at all about ubuntu's new "feature" Probably did not know Stallman or the new Ubuntu feature too well. - Ubuntu Spyware: What to do?

Ultimately, RMS is right, you know. It is spying all your desktop searches. It is spying your desktop searches to provide a feature that is not really that useful - To fill your desktop searches with amazon adware.

The highlight of the whole text is this:

If a sufficient part of our community's opinion leaders view this issue in personal terms only, if they switch the surveillance off for themselves and continue to promote Ubuntu, Canonical might get away with it. That would be a great loss to the free software community.

That is that continuing to promote Ubuntu because "you can just remove it". Is a very selfish way to do these things. Because not every user out there will be proficient enough to know that it can be removed.

What RMS does not know, is that despite the opposition to this feature. Despite that the new common new user reaction to ubuntu is "How do I remove the annoying Amazon ads?". Canonical want more of this. New ubuntu versions are likely to become worse before improving.

Damage control: Childish

Of course, when the starter of the whole free software thing. The thing that is still ubuntu's main selling point among passionate fans, says that ubuntu has spyware and that we should stop promoting it. It causes a disturbance in the plans of those who intended this feature to just slip away. It was time for damage control.

My first experience with damage control was actually quite poor. This ubuntu forums thread: . In which someone calls Stallman's article FUD and leads us to the Ubuntu privacy another post leading us to Mark Shuttleworth's old blog post about the feature.

The privacy policy is not that much comfort because it mentions nothing about the desktop searches that are being sent to Canonical's server even though Mark Shuttleworth says that they are sent to Canonical's servers. Does this mean that the searches are sent to Amazon and the blog post was wrong? Does this mean that the privacy policy does not protect our desktop searches? I do not know!

The blog post is not comforting either, it is just some of the common defenses of the amazon adware feature. (These defenses miss the point.

Let us call RMS' article FUD. That makes sense does not it? Except RMS' post contains no Uncertainty or Doubt. What is left is Fear. It is unfortunately, founded fear, because ubuntu is sending your desktop searches to canonical by default. And that was confirmed by Shuttleworth himself.

I thought. Ok, those are not official Canonical stances about RMS' post. Let us wait to see what happens. I did. And I was not impressed

"As a response to RMS speaking out against Ubuntu about its privacy-violating integrated Amazon search results, which he considers to be spyware, Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon has addressed RMS's statements. In his reply, Jono claims that Stallman's views on privacy do not align with Canonical's, that some of his statements are worded in order to 'generate fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Ubuntu' and that 'it just seems a bit childish to me.' The comments on the post itself are well worth a read."

The good thing about Jono is that he later apologized for the childish remark.

Honestly, if the best defense that Ubuntu supporters can come up about this is that "Privacy is a very personal thing" and that "Freedom is a very personal thing". And to say that it is just FUD. Then I am not very happy about this.

Point of the matter is that Ubuntu still sends your desktop searches through the net by default. Even if Canonical was the most reliable corporation ever, what about hackers? I mean, really. At least corporations should find ubuntu unsuitable at the moment. Because anybody in between the pipeline can learn at least the file names you are using.

What no one seems to like to admit , is that desktop searches can be very profitable information. They would just need some data mining. And since the ubuntu privacy policy makes no mention about how these searches are going to be used. The question is still out there... answer-less. Can we please have better damage control?

If you want some real FUD

We know that Canonical claim that your desktop searches are not sent directly to Amazon. But we also know that there is at least some Amazon traffic when you search from unity. I suspect that the images are downloaded from If that is the case, would not it be possible for Amazon to still track what sort of things you search in your desktop?