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How Ubuntu Turned Search in the Dash into a PR Crisis

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  • Thad Floryan
    The following URL was emailed to me earlier today: http://www.datamation.com/open-source/how-ubuntu-turned-search-in-the-dash-into-a-pr-crisis-1.html It s a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2013
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      The following URL was emailed to me earlier today:

      http://www.datamation.com/open-source/how-ubuntu-turned-search-in-the-dash-into-a-pr-crisis-1.html

      It's a 3-part article the 1st part of which is copy'n'pasted below
      with the URLs to the other parts at the end of this message:

      How Ubuntu Turned Search in the Dash into a PR Crisis
      By Bruce Byfield February 26, 2013

      While Ubuntu's upcoming phone and tablet dominate the headlines, an
      existing controversy is threatening to flare up again as the 13.04
      release nears. The display of Amazon search results in the dash,
      which first became an issue in the 12.10 release, is erupting again as
      Ubuntu plans to extend the feature to dozens of other websites. The
      company also plans to add direct payments from the dash and more
      suggestions.

      Ubuntu has been displaying music search results in the dash for
      several releases. However, the music results were drawn from Ubuntu's
      own music store, and those who use the dash to search for applications
      on their hard drive may have never noticed them.

      What changed in the 12.10 release was that, as a result of an
      affiliate deal, Amazon results appeared by default when users did even
      a local search. The results are forwarded to Ubuntu, which passes
      them on to Amazon.

      Security and Privacy Concerns

      Ubuntu responded to user concerns about privacy by promising that data
      would be encrypted during transmission, and by adding to the system
      settings a control to toggle off the results and data collection.
      Users can also remove the feature with the command sudo apt-get remove
      unity-lens-shipping. However, these changes only partially answered
      concerns that many expressed.

      To start with, while the affiliate deal potentially benefits Ubuntu,
      it's much less obvious how the feature benefits users. Opening the
      dash to search is not noticeably more convenient than opening a Web
      browser. In fact, the default behavior is considerably less
      convenient when all you want is to search for a locally installed app,
      because most of what is displayed is irrelevant to you.

      Moreover, while one of the points of Ubuntu's Unity interface is
      supposed to be its elegance and freedom from clutter, many of the
      changes created by these external results work against these design
      principles. In the nightly release of 13.04 that I am using as a
      reference, three of eleven icons on the launcher are for commercial
      services -- or three and a half if you include the Ubuntu Software
      Centre, which includes commercial items.

      Similarly, of the six lenses for filtering searches on the dash, all
      but five include commercial results by default. Although it is an
      exaggeration to claim, as some critics have, that Ubuntu is
      degenerating into adware, the point is understandable. At best,
      Ubuntu appears to be imitating one of the more unpleasant features of
      Windows, one that most Linux users are glad to have escaped.

      However, by far the greatest concerns center on security and privacy.
      Any competent sysadmin knows that it is a basic premise of security to
      have unnecessary features shut down by default and enabled only as
      needed. For this reason, to ship with the feature enabled is simply
      poor security.

      Anyone who is security conscious might also criticize using Ubuntu as
      an unnecessary go-between. From an accounting viewpoint, that might
      make sense, but from a security perspective, the unnecessary
      distribution of private information is always something to be avoided.
      The problem is not that users have any particular reason to mistrust
      Ubuntu or its commercial arm Canonical; it is that the practice
      violates basic security principles.

      Nor do Ubuntu's legal notice or privacy statements do anything to
      reassure users. The legal notice about searches in the dash
      (available from /usr/share/unity/6/searchingthedashlegalnotice.html on
      a 13.04 Ubuntu system) makes clear that Canonical reserves the right
      to share information, including your IP Address, with third parties.

      ======================================================================
      parts 2 and 3 of the article continue here:

      http://www.datamation.com/open-source/how-ubuntu-turned-search-in-the-dash-into-a-pr-crisis-page-2.html

      http://www.datamation.com/open-source/how-ubuntu-turned-search-in-the-dash-into-a-pr-crisis-page-3.html
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