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Old 12-07-2012, 12:51 PM   #1
Albatross
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Default Ubuntu Spyware: What to Do?

http://www.fsf.org/blogs/rms/ubuntu-spyware-what-to-do


Ubuntu, a widely used and influential GNU/Linux distribution, has installed surveillance code. When the user searches her own local files for a string using the Ubuntu desktop, Ubuntu sends that string to one of Canonical's servers.
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Old 12-07-2012, 01:59 PM   #2
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Ubuntu sits in a space between libre and proprietary software. I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I'm interested in seeing how it turns out. RMS makes good points about the free/non-free distinction, but even something semi-free is certainly better than absolutely non-free, right? I think he's probably right about not recommending Ubuntu to new people, and those that are experienced should proceed with caution.
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:02 PM   #3
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I think this might be an illustration of a "law" of big numbers:as soon as an OS passes a certain number, people realize it`s an opportunity for boatload of money to be made and sooner or later they take it.
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Albatross View Post
I think this might be an illustration of a "law" of big numbers:as soon as an OS passes a certain number, people realize it`s an opportunity for boatload of money to be made and sooner or later they take it.
I have no issues with making money, but it shouldn't be at the (potential)expense of user security and privacy. I think this could have been done with more finesse, and maybe come up with a different way to make cash.
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Old 12-07-2012, 02:18 PM   #5
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Marked for later read
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Old 12-07-2012, 04:07 PM   #6
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Looks like they're doubling down on the web integration...

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Ubunt...4-312919.shtml
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Old 12-07-2012, 04:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
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.
I think the author is more upset about non-free software than he is upset about the surveillance, otherwise he'd just switch it off and move on. It's good to know I might be sending search history to canonical, but honestly the article comes across as a political rant more than an informative piece about computer security.
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Old 12-07-2012, 04:20 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kornphlake View Post
I think the author is more upset about non-free software than he is upset about the surveillance, otherwise he'd just switch it off and move on. It's good to know I might be sending search history to canonical, but honestly the article comes across as a political rant more than an informative piece about computer security.
RMS is all about politics and philosophy. That's what he does. He's also been proven right over and over when he warns about encroachments on user freedom. Ignore him at your peril.

Edit:
More from the EFF...

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/1...and-data-leaks

Edit2:
A response from Jono Bacon, Ubuntu community manager...

http://www.jonobacon.org/2012/12/07/...an-and-ubuntu/

Pretty weak imo. It comes off as being fluffy and soft without any meat. He's comparing the Ubuntu situation to facebook, saying privacy violations can be reasonably debated. It either violates privacy, or it doesn't. While Ubuntu isn't nearly as egregious as facebook, it still has privacy concerns, and could very well get worse in the future. "Feature" creep in this regard is insidious, and well documented in the software world.

He's correct that RMS is uncompromising, and takes a binary view of software freedom, but that's his job, and without someone holding the hardline, your freedom can feature creep away until you don't have any.

Last edited by lxskllr; 12-07-2012 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 12-07-2012, 08:37 PM   #9
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Well, cross Ubuntu off my distro to try out list.

What about "downstream" distros, based on Ubuntu, like Mint?
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Old 12-07-2012, 08:48 PM   #10
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Well, cross Ubuntu off my distro to try out list.

What about "downstream" distros, based on Ubuntu, like Mint?
They don't meet the RMS seal of approval because they contain, and recommend non-free software. On the privacy particulars though, those are the forks RMS was talking about, where malicious features get fixed. As long as they continue to remove bad features, they'd be an imperfect, but better recommendation than Ubuntu.

If you wanted a fully free distro that's based on Ubuntu, Trisquel would be a good choice. It's pretty nice, but much more limiting than Ubuntu. It uses the Linux-libre kernel, and has no non-free packages in the repos. You'd have to be far more careful with hardware selection, and would have to like without Flash, and proprietary codecs and stuff like that, but it's doable.
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Old 12-07-2012, 10:11 PM   #11
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Spying implies taking someone's information without their knowledge. Canonical has been completely up front about their goal of a unified federated search in Unity, along with how that search data is used. For those that are uncomfortable with the feature, it can be disabled. If that's not good enough, Unity is open source, so anyone can go in and remove the feature entirely.

I'm not really seeing the outage here.
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:21 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lxskllr View Post
They don't meet the RMS seal of approval because they contain, and recommend non-free software. On the privacy particulars though, those are the forks RMS was talking about, where malicious features get fixed. As long as they continue to remove bad features, they'd be an imperfect, but better recommendation than Ubuntu.

If you wanted a fully free distro that's based on Ubuntu, Trisquel would be a good choice. It's pretty nice, but much more limiting than Ubuntu. It uses the Linux-libre kernel, and has no non-free packages in the repos. You'd have to be far more careful with hardware selection, and would have to like without Flash, and proprietary codecs and stuff like that, but it's doable.
I'd like to know why one wouldn't want to use proprietary software if you're not planning on modifying it yourself. I don't want to start a flamewar, but I never saw what all the fuss was about when it came to proprietary codecs, and drivers. Both of them are absolutely critical to my Linux experience. /offtopic

Regarding the topic at hand, I really don't like the direction this is going in. They've got their foot in the door, and who knows where they'll stop? I'm glad they effectively ruined the distro for me by putting that God-awful UI onto it. I won't ever try it again if they continue to record and phone-home user search queries.

Last edited by Joseph F; 12-08-2012 at 12:25 AM.
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Old 12-08-2012, 01:42 AM   #13
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I've been using Ubuntu for years. It looks like they're on a slippery slope. What distro is comparable and yet not approaching this type of situation? I'd like to stick to something debian based.
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Old 12-08-2012, 05:50 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseph F View Post
I'd like to know why one wouldn't want to use proprietary software if you're not planning on modifying it yourself. I don't want to start a flamewar, but I never saw what all the fuss was about when it came to proprietary codecs, and drivers. Both of them are absolutely critical to my Linux experience. /offtopic
Because proprietary software could be doing anything, and you wouldn't know it. It's a security issue. It's also a freedom issue. Regardless of whether or not you want to code, you have the right to code. You may never want to leave your home town, but you wouldn't want to prevent other people from leaving, or remove that option from yourself, would you?
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