Feeds

Fans revolt over Amazon 'adware' in Ubuntu desktop search results

Shuttleworth: Don't be mad, you trust us with root anyway

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Ubuntu loyalists are furious that shopping suggestions from Amazon will be plonked into desktop search results, shown when users attempt to find stuff on their computers and the local network.

Canonical, the company behind the GNU/Linux distro, has done a deal with the web bazaar to suggest products worth buying to punters. Links to these items will appear on the desktop of the next big release of Ubuntu, namely version 12.10. In return, the software company will take a tiny cut of any purchases made through the links.

The "Home Lens" is the universal search feature built into the Unity Dash and used by Ubuntu users for local as well as online search. The new deal with Amazon means that, according to punters, if you use Home Lens to find a file called, say, "journal" on your computer, this query will be sent off unencrypted to Canonical's server and return as a link to Amazon for "Taylor Dupree - Journal [2011] $2.79" among various suggestions. Woe betide anyone searching for something more personal or sensitive.

The affiliate deal with Amazon has stirred the hackles of the Ubuntu faithful, who see the new on-by-default "feature" as a sell-out to the etail giant. Upset Ubuntu users fear their data will be skimmed by Amazon and used to sell them things while carefully tabulating their porn-viewing habits.

Defending the decision, Oliver Ries, head of engineering product strategy at Canonical, said that revenue was important to Ubuntu:

…if a user clicks the item and purchases it, it will generate affiliate revenue that we can invest back into the project (in a similar way to how we generate revenue from the Firefox search
bar).

We have found affiliate revenue to be a good method of helping us to continue to invest in maturing and growing Ubuntu.

And billionaire Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth has stepped into the debate to reassure Ubuntu users that Canonical is not selling them all down the river:

We are not telling Amazon what you are searching for. Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don’t trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already. You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update.

Shuttleworth also stressed that these "shopping suggestions" are not adverts, but genuine search results from a company that just happens to have an affiliate deal with Ubuntu:

We’re not putting ads in Ubuntu. We’re integrating online scope results into the home lens of the dash. [...]

These are not ads because they are not paid placement, they are straightforward Amazon search results for your search.

Shuttleworth maintains that users who are seeing unwanted shopping suggestions "didn’t narrow the scope" enough. He points out that a user could narrow the search by using a hotkey to specify the specific scope they want, "like Super-A for apps, or Super-F for files". ®

SANS - Survey on application security programs

More from The Register

next story
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...
Why HELLO Amazon! You weren't here last time
Next Windows obsolescence panic is 450 days from … NOW!
The clock is ticking louder for Windows Server 2003 R2 users
This time it's 'Personal': new Office 365 sub covers just two devices
Redmond also brings Office into Google's back yard
Half of Twitter's 'active users' are SILENT STALKERS
Nearly 50% have NEVER tweeted a word
Microsoft TIER SMEAR changes app prices whether devs ask or not
Some go up, some go down, Redmond goes silent
Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS
Admins dab straining server brows in advance of Trusty Tahr's long-term support landing
Red Hat to ship RHEL 7 release candidate with a taste of container tech
Grab 'near-final' version of next Enterprise Linux next week
Windows 8.1, which you probably haven't upgraded to yet, ALREADY OBSOLETE
Pre-Update versions of new Windows version will no longer support patches
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.