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Mark Shuttleworth Addresses Ubuntu Privacy Issues 279

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
sfcrazy writes "Mark Shuttleworth has for the first time talked about the privacy issues in Ubuntu Dash after being criticized by EFF and FSF. He mentioned some changes in the way use can 'disable' the search results. However the company has showed that under no circumstances they will disable the online search by default as demanded by EFF and FSF. Shuttleworth was simply spinning the wheel moving things around to give an impression that something has been done where as the core problem remains — Dash sends keystrokes by default and legally every user agrees to send such keystrokes to PRODUCT.canonical.com server to be shared with partners like Facebook."
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Mark Shuttleworth Addresses Ubuntu Privacy Issues

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  • hello hosts file (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:49PM (#42936961)

    127.0.0.1 product.canonical.com

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Are you sure you got the right host?

      $ ping product.canonical.com
      ping: unknown host product.canonical.com

    • by fatphil (181876)
      You're supposed to sign such posts "APK"!
    • Re:hello hosts file (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:28PM (#42938005)

      I would argue that once a distribution has gone "dark" in the manner that Ubuntu and its parent company Canonical have, measures like these are a moot point... Yes, you can block their servers. Now. If they decide to write a daemon that watches the host file for alterations and automatically restores it to a protected backup, what then? You find a way around it of course. Then they come up with more protection, you come up with more ways around said protection...and nobody wins.

      The alternative is to use something else. I have a favourite distribution but I'm not going to hawk it here as an alternative because I'm not a shill :P I do suggest this though, in all seriousness -- instead of measures like these, try another distribution. Any one that you like! And be sure to let Canonical know you switched -because- they forced you into taking measures like altering your host file just to feel secure from THEIR OWN SPYWARE!

      Linux distro's survive upon word of mouth and goodwill from the community -- if you take away that second part, the first part tends to dry up rather quickly too. Don't fight with your own OS to protect your security, just use one that doesn't force you into it in the first place, no matter what that might be!

      • "Yes, you can block their servers."

        sudo dpkg-reconfigure dash

        Then click no.

        No more dash, back to good old bash, which has worked just fine for just about everybody for a long time.

      • by Urkki (668283)

        I would argue that once a distribution has gone "dark" in the manner that Ubuntu and its parent company Canonical have, measures like these are a moot point... Yes, you can block their servers. Now. If they decide to write a daemon that watches the host file for alterations and automatically restores it to a protected backup, what then?

        I'd be willing to grant they are only shady, not really dark, until they actually do put in measures (beyonf having opt-out instead of opt-in) which make it hard to disable this. That is an important distinction. Now by default they make people do it "their way", but that's always how it is, there's always default for everything except dialogs which force making a choice before "Next->" button becomes enabled. Doing it this way with spy feature is bad, but it's still a far cry from stopping people from c

    • by keneng (1211114)

      Cool circumvention technique! Hats off to you. Another way is to bring up terminal in the dash. Fire up "sudo bash" and "synaptic" and click its search button all you apps to install this way.

      Typing stuff in dash could be a way for us to have ubuntu notice what we really want.
      i.e.
      "Ubuntu desktop on the phone NOT Ubuntu Phone"
      "Ubuntu Desktop on Advent Vega NOT on Android"
      "Ubuntu Desktop on All ARM Devices"
      "I prefer Ubuntu Desktop on intel/amd devices. Ubuntu Desktop on ARM still sucks and isn't w

    • by mcl630 (1839996)

      Isn't it productsearch.ubuntu.com ?

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:55PM (#42937017)

    All that will happen is people will move to fedora or mint or countless other Linux distros.

    Mark, if you want to make some money try selling something worthwhile. Games would be one idea, hell get steam to give you a cut if you make installation of steam optional during OS install. Selling users data is a bad idea.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:13PM (#42937249)
      Exactly. Or even just ask me if I'm ok with stuff like this. Tell me what I'm sharing, who with, and ask if I want to enable it. Depending on what that says, I might well have said, "Yeah sure."
      • by Captain Hook (923766) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:20PM (#42937929)

        Tell me what I'm sharing, who with

        The problem with that is that all your keystrokes go to a single Canonical controlled server and it's the server which then forwards the data to whoever it wants.

        Today you sign up for Amazon getting the search queries but without any changes to your machine tomorrow they go to Facebook as well, and then the day after they all get stored by Canonical as a way of providing historical context to the searches you've made (just so they can better server your queries... nothing creepy about it).

        Sure they say you are agreeing to Amazon get the search queries in all the big font agreements people are signing now but I bet the licence lets them send the data to whoever they chose to.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:19PM (#42937341)

      Mark Shuttleworth has devolved. He's decided to accept the definition of User as something other than Owner. He's raised the port cullis and thrown open the doors for third parties to hunt User metadata, revealing his allegiance, defaulting to a state of non-concern for the least among us.

      I'm sure it's convenient for him to imagine he's still engaged in promoting Linux, but at what cost?

      How much did he get for his soul? How much did he get for everyone else's?

    • by Yobgod Ababua (68687) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:20PM (#42937347)

      I recently moved from Fedora to Ubuntu because I'm trying to do more dev work and -all- the development tools and library releases these days seem to be more Ubuntu-friendly.

      I was more Fedora-friendly because I came from a RedHat admin background, but I kept running into more and more projects/games/libraries that interpreted "LInux support" to mean Ubuntu, so I gave in. Since then it's actually worked out pretty well, although I still prefer yum to apt-get...

    • All that will happen is people will move to fedora or mint or countless other Linux distros.

      Just installed Mint here, and I have to say I am really enjoying KDE over the default Ubuntu environment.

    • by fatphil (181876)
      But he'll be losing only the people who mind him taking his snooping tax anyway. His actual revenue stream will blindly remain.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I wish I was trolling, but up to now I've been a huge proponent of OSS: the fact that the source code is available for review makes it relatively secure. For the common user Open Source's flagship products are Libre Office, Firefox, and Ubuntu. Now I find out Ubuntu wants to sneak in ads and sell user data and I have to wonder, if they do this what other product is also doing it or plans to?

      Please, open source developers, do it for free or charge for it upfront, but don't sneak in hidden "features." It goes

    • Well one of the ways he kills ubuntu. The new user interface is all but worthless for me. It does not do even the simple tasks I want of it. So I'm moving on.

      .

    • I'm giving up on mint, too.

      on my previous mint box, for some damned reason, each time I type on open angle bracket (tags) it puts 2 of them in. damned if I can find out why. no, its not a bouncy keyboard, as I first thought.

      current mint on my 4yr old laptop (t6600 cpu) causes firefox to go cpu-bound and the desktop freezes at least once a day. what the hell?? lots of slowness and I can't see any obvious reason for it.

      ubuntu is now on the dark side, and mint is a piece of shit, these days. what should I

  • Amazing. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:56PM (#42937037)

    It amazes me that when somebody does something as a business that it infuriates people especially when they get something for free. Yes, Ubuntu is taking free software, wrapping it as a supportable bundle and distributing it. So now they've hooked into the information sharing arrangement. It's easy enough to disable as well and the hosts file solution is also there. I wonder if just charging $10 a download / dvd would make more sense then adding another keylogging data collector out there. Frankly Facebook is the worst and the network of data collectors it's partnered with is becoming more and more troublesome.

    • Re:Amazing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by redmid17 (1217076) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:02PM (#42937091)
      It amazes me that people in charge of projects like Ubuntu think that a policy like that won't have a significant impact on the popularity of the distro over the long term, especially with heavily slanted tech crowd that uses Linux distros in the first place.
      • by Virtucon (127420)

        Well, what is the most popular Linux distro out there? I would argue that the changes that Ubuntu have brought (or packaging as it were) has made it much more palatable for novices to adopt; It's not all for techs out there to use Linux. Fedora right now has its set of detractors as well, so what's left? If you want to put an easy wrapper on it, Android is the most popular Linux distro out there right now. I will now receive a bombarding of shots because everybody says Android isn't Linux, but we do hav

        • by redmid17 (1217076)
          I'm sure some resourceful people will figure out how to fork a linux distro and apply their own non-Orwellian touches to it. Oh wait, they already have. There's your answer.
        • by rolfwind (528248)

          Well, what is the most popular Linux distro out there?

          I have nothing concrete to go by, but according to Distrowatch's Page Hit Ranking, Linux Mint by a margin.

          But that's probably among people who install OSes and not necessarily commercial use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It amazes me that when somebody does something as a business that it infuriates people especially when they get something for free.

      It amazes me when some people seem to think that free products or services are somehow above criticism. It's as simple as this: if it isn't changed, people who care enough about it won't use it or will stop using it. There is nothing wrong with either of those.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I wonder if just charging $10 a download / dvd would make more sense then adding another keylogging data collector out there.

      YES! Enough of this ad-supported bull shit. Enough of this it's Open Source so it should be free, but not really free because we gotta eat so we'll sneak in some underhanded revenue stream bull shit. If you want to make money sell your product at a fair price. Make it Open Source, which means that people can compile their own version for free if they want, Sell the Binaries.

      I'd gladly pay $10, $20, $30 to download a good binary version that saves me time. I'd gladly pay $10-30 for a good product.

    • Re:Amazing. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:25PM (#42937407)
      It amazes me that there are people who will excuse the ethics of an action, if it is a business doing so to support a free product. Who cares if its "super easy" for the non-technical users ubuntu is marketed at to find and edit the hosts file. Giving users a product for free doesn't justify everything. Selling user data without an explicit opt-in is unethical, and I don't want to contribute in any way to a distro engaging in that practice.
      • by MrEricSir (398214)

        Selling user data without an explicit opt-in is unethical,

        Then what the hell are you doing using the web?

    • Re:Amazing. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:45PM (#42937609)

      It amazes me that when somebody does something as a business that it infuriates people especially when they get something for free.

      Shuttleworth picked the wrong crowd to spring this on. I don't think "Free" means what you think it means here or else you would understand.

    • Re:Amazing. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by X.25 (255792) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:50PM (#42938201)

      It amazes me that when somebody does something as a business that it infuriates people especially when they get something for free. Yes, Ubuntu is taking free software, wrapping it as a supportable bundle and distributing it. So now they've hooked into the information sharing arrangement. It's easy enough to disable as well and the hosts file solution is also there. I wonder if just charging $10 a download / dvd would make more sense then adding another keylogging data collector out there. Frankly Facebook is the worst and the network of data collectors it's partnered with is becoming more and more troublesome.

      I donated 40 EUR, while downloading Ubuntu image many mohths ago. Do I get to complain now, since I didn't get it for free? Hell, I'd probably be willing to pay them reasonable yearly 'support' fee in order to help them make some money - it would be worth it.

      I won't be donating them anything ever again, nor will I be using it, since I simply don't trust Ubuntu anymore and never will. For all I know, they might re-enable things that I disabled without even asking me, when applying updates. They seem to think that everything is a fair game.

      • Pretty much my thoughts. I also donated 30€ some months ago, but don't feel like doing that again after the Amazon trick.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It amazes me that when somebody does something as a business that it infuriates people especially when they get something for free

      It amazes me when people are treated like criminals or animals and they don't become infuriated, or even react.

      It's easy enough to disable as well and the hosts file solution is also there.

      Sure, you can disable it. But it would be better to not ship spyware. It's spyware because they don't give you sufficient notice. Sure, WE know all about it, but the general public doesn't.

      I wonder if just charging $10 a download / dvd would make more sense then adding another keylogging data collector out there

      Well no, no it wouldn't. They'd go under. Redhat already has the paid Linux thing sewn up.

      Frankly Facebook is the worst and the network of data collectors it's partnered with is becoming more and more troublesome.

      That has what to do with this?

  • The End of Ubuntu? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fallen1 (230220) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:58PM (#42937055) Homepage

    I would say that pretty much ends the usefulness of the Ubuntu line. Anyone who thinks that sending all my keystrokes to their server - which they can in turn sell off to third parties - is, in my not so humble opinion, bat fucking crazy.

    You should not have to edit hosts files or anything else to make a product usable, because that product should not be spying on you from install forward. I do believe my personal response to Mark is a big "FUCK OFF AND DIE". End of story. End of Ubuntu.

    • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:07PM (#42937155) Homepage Journal

      I would say that pretty much ends the usefulness of the Ubuntu line. Anyone who thinks that sending all my keystrokes to their server - which they can in turn sell off to third parties - is, in my not so humble opinion, bat fucking crazy.

      Yeah, I've defended a lot of their questionable behavior, but this is utterly indefensible. This is spyware by definition. I hope they get their peepees smacked. Nice to know my last ISO download was a waste of time, as I won't be using it. I guess I'm headed for Mint...

      +

      • There's not just Mint. You could first try Xubuntu. It's got a better interface than plain Ubuntu and does not (yet) have any of the spyware issues. You can upgrade to xubuntu sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop and then clean off all that is not Xubuntu [psychocats.net]. Xubuntu gives you XFCE. There is also the KDE route with Kubuntu. That is also missing the spyware, for now.
    • by jma05 (897351) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:49PM (#42937647)

      > Anyone who thinks that sending all my keystrokes to their server...

      Well. Not ALL keystrokes. Just Unity Dash searches. Doesn't Android's integrated search bar do something like this too? Not that it makes it OK of course.

      • There might be some dragons also with the Windows Live account used to sign into Win8.
      • by swillden (191260)

        > Anyone who thinks that sending all my keystrokes to their server...

        Well. Not ALL keystrokes. Just Unity Dash searches. Doesn't Android's integrated search bar do something like this too? Not that it makes it OK of course.

        I don't think so. Android's search bar does the same "instant search" thing that google.com does, so it sends each keystroke to Google for predictive search. And Google, of course, keeps track of what you search for (unless you opt out) to help target ads. However, Google doesn't send your data to anyone else.

        (Disclaimer: I work for Google, but not on these products and it's possible that I'm wrong. I don't think I am, though.)

  • by accessbob (962147) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:05PM (#42937129)

    I replaced Ubuntu with Mint when I was first confronted by Unity because I couldn't abide the new UI.

    Sounds like that was the least of the reasons to go...

    I was thinking that it's been a while and that I should have another look at how Unity has evolved, but not if they are reduced to doing this to stay in business.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Let's really think about this though.

      Remember what the significant difference between Ubuntu and Mint was?

      Mint installed some popular proprietary closed-source software by default; Something that Ubuntu refused to do.

      This meant that you could play MP3s out of the box, without having to type "sudo apt-get blah blah blah...". You didn't have to go on a quest for Flash, SUN Java JDK, and lots of other pretty cool stuff, that Ubuntu turned up it's nose at "because it wasn't open source".

      But then this?

      Backroom p

  • Canonical can have a good poke about in /home/gordonjcp if they think it'll help. Why?

    Because I'm getting bombarded with advertising *anyway*.

    If the adverts are going to be there then they may as well be for stuff I actually want, rather than constantly advertising pharmacies that will discreetly ship to the US without requiring a prescription (why would you want to buy drugs over the internet, never mind without a prescription?). If advertising stuff that I want to buy helps a company that I'd like to su

  • by nadaou (535365) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:15PM (#42937283) Homepage

    > We will aim to enforce this at the kernel level, hence
    > the CC to Jamie S who leads our security team.

    WTF? Why is that needed? To keep jr devs from accidentally re-enabling it? Or, in fine /. conspiratorial tradition, is the keylogging built into the kernel?!

  • Fuck ubuntu (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WaffleMonster (969671) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:36PM (#42937519)

    This is the problem with "success" of open projects as they grow they require more and more money to continue to reinforce their expansion and it only snowballs downhill from there. Before you know it your out there selling your soul and your users data to the highest bidder. You can still reap profit on support alone but you can't expect it to support an organization of any size with fat paychecks for all doing this. There aint any shortage of corporate customers happily willing to purchase yearly support subscriptions whether they actually need it or use it.

    Distributions put together by people who give a shit don't have this problem. The cost of packaging in time and effort is such a minsicule effort and mostly a solved problem contrasted with the effort required to produce operating system and software bundled with it.

    What if bash maintainers decided they need more money too and decided to ship your keystrokes off to facebook as well? What if the maintainers of every one of the thousands of packages that go into a modern distribution followed suite? Spying by default is indefensible.

  • Gets turned into a marketing opportunity?

    • by pr0nbot (313417)
      It's the American Way!
    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Two obvious reasons:
      1. A lot of people think that the value of things is measured in dollars, and so if a project doesn't make money it's not worth doing.
      2. There's basically nobody on the planet who wouldn't like having more money.

      • 2. There's basically nobody on the planet who wouldn't like having more money.

        so, you are suggesting we use linux that comes from an alien race or life form, instead?

        they tend to suck at the terrestrial languages, though; so don't expect their spell-check to be worth a damn.

        and if they spy on us, who cares! again, they don't know our languages.

  • Ubuntu might write off people who oppose this change as a small minority of geeks, and the vast majority of people won't care.

    Which is true in the short term. Unfortunately as history has proved repeatedly, the "vast majority of people" go to a geek for advice. That might be a family member, a trusted friend or some geek writing something online. They might not understand what the issue is, but over time they will hear the geek background noise about what Ubuntu is doing. In the Medium to Long term, Ubuntu

    • by MBGMorden (803437)

      The problem here is that geeks are the primary audience for ANY Linux distribution - even Ubuntu. The minority users for Linux are the non-geeks.

      They can't approach PR stuff from the same angle as Microsoft or Apple. If they piss of the geeks they have pissed off the majority of their userbase. Personally, I'm done with Ubuntu, the same way I'm done with Gnome. Luckily there are still distros (Mint) and desktop environments (XFCE) that still "get it" and listen to the users.

  • by koan (80826) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:49PM (#42937661)

    Using Ubuntu these days goes against why I used Linux to start with.

    • I agree, but I also think Canonical need to start making a profit or else there really will be no Ubuntu in the future.

      It's just a shame that they have to go about making money in this way.

      At the moment I'm still on 10.04, and I feel like Mario on a disappearing platform with canonical or gnome 3 waiting to catch me at the bottom. Needing to make a run and jump to MATE and Mint.

  • by ilikenwf (1139495) on Monday February 18, 2013 @03:16PM (#42937901)
    This really isn't the only reason to avoid Ubuntu, but it is the most compelling. Aside from dependency hell, Unity, and the ridiculous amount of patches that get applied to all the packages, that many times break applications (I'm a developer for http://getnightingale.com/ [getnightingale.com] - Ubuntu's taglib is completely hosed from our perspective), and in general it is TOO friendly to the user, making them dumb and complacent in most cases.

    I talked to Hak5's Darren recently and he's moving away from Ubuntu, and I did 4 years ago to Arch for my single user machines and Debian for my servers. I haven't looked back since. Most other distros are much more in line with the open standards and software that Linux is all about than Shuttlebuntu. Give some other distros a try, and you may find one that just blows your mind...like Archlinux, Debian, Mint, or whatever else.
  • "if you have are not paying for it, you are not the customer - you are the product being sold". (source unknown)

    • by MoonFog (586818)
      I didn't pay for the Debian install I have on my laptop. Wonder who they're selling me to?
  • I wonder if our servers will do the same thing since we run ~30 Ubuntu servers. Will I have to stop updating/upgrading my servers at the next version?

    Hopefully this is limited to systems with GUI's installed and not headless servers.

  • by http (589131) on Monday February 18, 2013 @04:10PM (#42938357) Homepage Journal
    The issues have not been addressed.
  • Such a shame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rastoboy29 (807168)
    It's a shame really. I no longer have a distro that I feel really comfortable recommending to non-techie users. In my opinion, Shuttleworth has pissed away most of his very well earned respect in the community.

    I've long felt that Ubuntu was the only really "complete" distro for the desktop. Other ones come close, but they tend to have one major issue or another for regular users. Ubuntu had the least, by far. Sucks.

    First Unity, now this. They both suck. I mean, they
  • I've used Linux since I could get RedHat on Floppies. I personally like BSD based systems, but for my family who play more games, I typically have used Ubuntu. I work as a senior systems admin, and I make the purchasing and installation decisions at the company where I work.

    I don't like the idea of spyware coming as a default solution on my kid's laptop. Or my aunt's, or my wife's, or my grandmother's, or my friends'. I don't like the idea of recommending Ubuntu on any system at the Linux User's Group i

  • I'm probably one of the few people who actually doesn't find Unity so bad and don't get all the hate that it seems to have here on Slashdot. I use 12.04 on my primary machine and Unity works well enough for me: it's not revolutionary, but it's no better and no worse than the Gnome 2 user experience that came before it. However, these types of shenanigans is where I draw the line. While Ubuntu did a lot of good work in their time, I don't think I'll ever upgrade to Quantal or any of their future versions unl

  • I've been saying for years (to little effect) that desktop Linux is desperately missing a decent firewall which gives the *USER* a choice as to whether any process/program can communicate with the network.

    Zone alarm used to be a must have for any Windows box because it would not only block incoming connections but it would prompt the user whenever *anything* tried to get out to the internet. No exceptions. Nothing left the machine without you, the all important user, giving it the go ahead (I actually tes

    • by Linegod (9952)

      DrakeFirewall: http://doc.mandriva.com/en/2010/Mastering-Manual/Mastering-Manual.html/tinyfirewall.html [mandriva.com]

      It is available in Mageia as well.

      Pop-up notifications, default blocking all, port scan detection, etc.

      Been around for years.

      • Cheers for the effort. However drakfirewall looks like a Mandriva specific bit of software.

        So not much use for Ubuntu really (no package of that name in the repositories etc. etc.)

        Still I'll have a look at it as if it does actually give the user control then this is *exactly* what is need for Ubuntu/other desktop Linux oses.

        If it does look to do the job I'll try rasiing another feature request to port it to Ubunut. And no doubt it will get ignored like the other times I've tried.

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