Feeds

Privacy group damns Ubuntu's Amazon search marriage

Unhelpful when you're searching your pr0n library

A new approach to endpoint data protection

Privacy activists have taken Canonical to task for exposing users' web searches and searches of their local hard drives to sites such as Amazon, Facebook and the BBC.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has called Canonical's integration of the Ubuntu 12.10 Dash search feature with results from Amazon "a major privacy problem".

The integration comes courtesy of the Unity Dash search feature, introduced with Ubuntu 12.10 earlier in October. It caused a storm among users but was defended by Ubuntu daddy Mark Shuttleworth, although Canonical subsequently released a kill switch.

EEF highlighted a number of situations where you could be searching your Ubuntu PC's hard drive and wouldn't want results beamed out to the Canonical server that then sucks back in Amazon matches.

These include searching for the latest version of your résumé at work, looking for a domestic abuse hotline PDF, divorce documents, looking for documents with file names that will gave away trade secrets or activism plans ... or even tracking down that one piece of porn you just can't seem get your hands on.

"There are many reasons why you wouldn't want any of these search queries to leave your computer," the group said.

The EEF has posted tips on uninstalling the Dash-Amazon feature and advised people on moving to Gnome 3, KDE or Cinnamon.

The group also upbraided Canonical for not clearly disclosing to Ubuntu users who it is sharing their data with.

Dash 12.10 features a new, and not immediately obvious, legal notice that says that by using Dash, you automatically agree to send your search terms and IP address to third parties "including" Facebook, Twitter, BBC and Amazon.

"Canonical is not clear about which third parties it sends data to and when, but it appears that many of these third parties only get searched in certain circumstances," EEF wrote.

EEF listed four points of action for Canonical: disable the inclusion of online searches by default; explain in detail what happens to search queries and IP addresses; let users toggle on and off between specific online search results; and "respect users' privacy and security".

EEF said it loved that Ubuntu is "bold enough to break new ground and compete directly with the large proprietary operating systems" but that Canonical should not follow moves by software companies to share users' data without the users' express consent to "maximise profits for their shareholders". ®

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

More from The Register

next story
PEAK LANDFILL: Why tablet gloom is good news for Windows users
Sinofsky's hybrid strategy looks dafter than ever
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Fiendishly complex password app extension ships for iOS 8
Just slip it in, won't hurt a bit, 1Password makers urge devs
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
Another day, another Firefox: Version 31 is upon us ALREADY
Web devs, Mozilla really wants you to like this one
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cloudy CoreOS Linux distro declares itself production-ready
Lightweight, container-happy Linux gets first Stable release
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?