Linked by Howard Fosdick on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 08:57 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu Proprietary software like Windows often includes surveillance code to track user behavior and send this information to vendor servers. Linux has traditionally been immune to such privacy violation. Ubuntu 12.10 now includes code that, by default, collects data on Dash searches. The code integrates Amazon products into search results and can even integrate with Facebook, Twitter, BBC and others as per Ubuntu's Third Party Privacy Policies. This article at the EFF tells how it all works and how to opt out of information sharing, while Richard Stallman himself comments here.
Order by: Score:
Getting just as bad at the others
by shotsman on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 10:57 UTC
shotsman
Member since:
2005-07-22

such as Google, Apple, microsoft in their search for revenue and to hell with user privacy.
Enabling this by default won't win them many friends. sure you can disable it but that is not the main question.
Canonical seem to be doing everything it can to:-
1) get revenue by any means possible
2) alienate their current user base.

In some places those two might not be too far apart from meeting the same goal.

I predict that they will soon come out with a Subscription model that for a sum of money each year you will get all this crud disabled be default.

Reply Score: 3

shiny Member since:
2005-08-09


Canonical seem to be doing everything it can to:-
1) get revenue by any means possible
2) alienate their current user base.

In some places those two might not be too far apart from meeting the same goal.

I predict that they will soon come out with a Subscription model that for a sum of money each year you will get all this crud disabled be default.


Kind of reminds me of what was Mandrake/Mandriva doing in their last years.

Unfortunately almost no Linux distro ever achived economic independence on their own (without relying on (temporary) external company finances). A depressing fact when you give it a second thought.

Reply Score: 4

spiderman Member since:
2008-10-23


Kind of reminds me of what was Mandrake/Mandriva doing in their last years.

Unfortunately almost no Linux distro ever achived economic independence on their own (without relying on (temporary) external company finances). A depressing fact when you give it a second thought.

I think you confuse economic and financial independence. Sorry to be picky but this distinction is important to me because too many people confuse finance and the economy. The economy involves production and consumption and GNU/Linux is a great success in that regard. Production is opulent and consumption is booming. Finance involves money flow and GNU/Linux, in that regards, is a failure when compared to proprietary counterparts.

I take it you meant financial independence. I think you meant that few companies got much financial profit from GNU/Linux. Red Hat is one instance of a company profiting a lot financially but hundreds of others are failing. I believe this is no different than the other industries. Hundreds of companies fail or survive with low profile for one Microsoft to succeed at that level of success. What is different here is that failure is made in public, because of the open nature of the GNU/linux industry, whereas the vast majority of failed proprietary software never ever see the light of the day and nobody hear about them. This nature may give you the illusion that GNU/Linux is failing more than others. The reality is that GNU/Linux is the main cause for the failure of many proprietary software, because it is successful.

The thing that makes GNU/Linux a success is that it is not dependant on finance so much as other proprietary software. Debian, for instance, thrives with almost no financial input. That is why it cannot be stopped. Mandrake SA has been killed many, many times but Mandrake still rolls, barely affected on its name.

Edited 2013-01-03 17:54 UTC

Reply Score: 4

Nothing new under the sun.
by Soulbender on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 11:01 UTC
Soulbender
Member since:
2005-08-18

The EFF article is from October and Stallman's rant from December 7. We already went over this, nothing new to see here.

Reply Score: 11

unfair jab at Microsoft
by chekr on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 11:18 UTC
chekr
Member since:
2005-11-05

The remark "Proprietary software like Windows often includes surveillance code to track user behavior and send this information to vendor servers." is not correct.

Windows does not track any user behaviour whatsoever unless you elect (*choose*) to participate in the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program.

Only when you activate Windows does the Windows Activation Technology send the following information to the validation server:

•Computer make and model
•Version information for the operating system and software
•Region and language settings
•A unique number assigned to your computer by the tools (Globally Unique Identifier or GUID)
•Product Key (hashed) and Product ID
•BIOS name, revision number, and revision date
•Hard drive volume serial number (hashed)
•Whether the installation was successful if one was performed
•The result of the validation check, including error codes and information about any activation exploits and any related malicious or unauthorized software found or disabled

The above does not at all amount to surveillance code or behaviour.

Please correct the text or substantiate what surveillance is taking place in a default Windows installation, that you know about, but the rest of the world does not.

Reply Score: 8

RE: unfair jab at Microsoft
by The1stImmortal on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 11:39 UTC in reply to "unfair jab at Microsoft"
The1stImmortal Member since:
2005-10-20

The remark "Proprietary software like Windows often includes surveillance code to track user behavior and send this information to vendor servers." is not correct.

Windows does not track any user behaviour whatsoever unless you elect (*choose*) to participate in the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program.

Only when you activate Windows does the Windows Activation Technology send the following information to the validation server:

•Computer make and model
•Version information for the operating system and software
•Region and language settings
•A unique number assigned to your computer by the tools (Globally Unique Identifier or GUID)
•Product Key (hashed) and Product ID
•BIOS name, revision number, and revision date
•Hard drive volume serial number (hashed)
•Whether the installation was successful if one was performed
•The result of the validation check, including error codes and information about any activation exploits and any related malicious or unauthorized software found or disabled

The above does not at all amount to surveillance code or behaviour.

Please correct the text or substantiate what surveillance is taking place in a default Windows installation, that you know about, but the rest of the world does not.

Unless Windows downloads the binaries to perform the elective user tracking upon the user making said choice, then technically yes, it does include code to perform what could be considered by some to be "surveillance code to track user behavior and send this information to vendor servers". Whether or not said code is actually called under a default installation without user consent is an entirely different matter.

Imagine a car that includes a GPS phone-home tracker. If you don't turn it on, that doesn't mean the car no longer includes a GPS phone-home tracker.

Another argument one could make is that when sold as an OEM package with what is often termed "bloatware" - there is other software (such as search bars, etc) which would qualify as "surveillance code to track user behavior and send this information to vendor servers", "included" with the Windows operating system (albeit not a part of the operating system per se, but included by the OEM)

Finally, Windows Activation could be considered to be performing at least "surveillance" over a couple of aspects of user activity - OS reinstalls and hardware modifications. Claiming "The above does not at all amount to surveillance code or behaviour." is purely subjective based on one's interpretation of "surveillance code or behaviour"

Reply Score: 7

RE[2]: unfair jab at Microsoft
by chekr on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:28 UTC in reply to "RE: unfair jab at Microsoft"
chekr Member since:
2005-11-05

It is clear that your definition of surveillance is quite different from the norm. No point arguing.

Reply Score: 3

The1stImmortal Member since:
2005-10-20

Actually it wasn't the "surveillance" part I was really disagreeing with. It was the "include" bit ;) Note I carefully avoided taking a personal stance on the "surveillance" angle.

Yes I'm being pedantic ;) Your original post looked just a bit too much like a shill or even a legal threat(which it's not, and I'm not saying you are, but it *looked* like that kind of post), to avoid me posting like I did ;)

Reply Score: 3

RE: unfair jab at Microsoft
by UltraZelda64 on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:21 UTC in reply to "unfair jab at Microsoft"
UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Only when you activate Windows does the Windows Activation Technology send the following information to the validation server:

•Computer make and model
•Version information for the operating system and software
•Region and language settings
•A unique number assigned to your computer by the tools (Globally Unique Identifier or GUID)
•Product Key (hashed) and Product ID
•BIOS name, revision number, and revision date
•Hard drive volume serial number (hashed)
•Whether the installation was successful if one was performed
•The result of the validation check, including error codes and information about any activation exploits and any related malicious or unauthorized software found or disabled

The above does not at all amount to surveillance code or behaviour.

Is any of that Microsoft's business? Fuck no... unless they built the machine themselves, in which case they wouldn't even need to have their OS call home to find all that information out.

sur·veil·lance:
- a watch kept over a person, group, etc., especially over a suspect, prisoner, or the like
- close and continuous observation or testing

The second is a medical definition, but I'd say they are both quite suitable for explaining what Windows does on behalf of its creator. Bottom line is, if you run Windows, Microsoft is keeping tabs on you and your computer. This has been known for years and I don't know how that can be denied with any kind of seriousness.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: unfair jab at Microsoft
by chekr on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:30 UTC in reply to "RE: unfair jab at Microsoft"
chekr Member since:
2005-11-05

Your view of surveillance requires some mental gymnastics! I posit that this is not surveillance. It is a one-time product activation.

Reply Score: 3

The1stImmortal Member since:
2005-10-20

It is a one-time product activation.

I take it you don't rebuild/repair many PCs... heh

Reply Score: 3

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Or do fresh OS installations from time to time.

Microsoft will revoke your key if you install and activate Windows enough times, even on the same exact computer with absolutely no hardware modifications or upgrades.

Edited 2013-01-03 12:46 UTC

Reply Score: 5

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

No... it just requires an adequately-functioning brain with at least a few live brain cells and a steady supply of oxygen. No mental gymnastics necessary, unless perhaps you suffer from some sort of mental retardation.

Go read the definitions of the word, and then go look a bit closer at how WGA actually works; not just the information it sends with the assumption that it only ever does it once.

Reply Score: 0

RE: unfair jab at Microsoft
by macinnisrr on Sat 5th Jan 2013 10:41 UTC in reply to "unfair jab at Microsoft"
macinnisrr Member since:
2009-11-12

As with any proprietary software, how can you really know?

Reply Score: 0

Comment
by pandronic on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:28 UTC
pandronic
Member since:
2006-05-18

One word ... paranoia. If this helps Ubuntu make some money, I'm all for it. The nerve of some people expecting other people to work for free for them. Just STFU and use whatever other distro you like.

Reply Score: 8

RE: Comment
by Morgan on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 15:16 UTC in reply to "Comment"
Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

You don't even have to use another distro. Either turn off the lens with instructions provided by Canonical, or install another DE. It's not rocket science, and you'd think that people smart enough to install and use GNU/Linux (even Ubuntu) would be able to figure it out.

In my personal opinion, there are better distros out there and I recommend Manjaro Linux as a good alternative. But, Ubuntu is still great for newbies and it's first to get support from previously Windows/Mac only software vendors.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Comment
by andrewclunn on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 15:53 UTC in reply to "Comment"
andrewclunn Member since:
2012-11-05

Exactly. Oh no! A company that is giving away their work, with other forks already available, is selling my search info for marketing purposes, unless I decide to unclick an option!!! Oh, but they also legitimize non-free software by doing horrible things like letting users play mp3s!

You know what Stallman? I don't use Ubuntu, but now I jsut might, as this will allow a company to use ad revenue to fund continued open source development. And people wonder why some people call the FSF communist.

Reply Score: 2

v RE[2]: Comment
by windowshasyou on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 18:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment"
RE[2]: Comment
by Alfman on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 21:09 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

andrewclunn,

"You know what Stallman? I don't use Ubuntu, but now I jsut might, as this will allow a company to use ad revenue to fund continued open source development. And people wonder why some people call the FSF communist."


The intended insult pre-supposes that communism is inherently bad, but think about it. Lots of open source users really do have communist values.

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Comment
by UltraZelda64 on Fri 4th Jan 2013 08:27 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment"
UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Go ahead and do a local search for a file on your hard drive containing... oh, I dunno... your social security number or some other personal and confidential information while you're at it. Hey, what can it hurt? It's not like highly personal information can ever be tracked directly back to you, and after all--you're helping Canonical to get richer and greedier. Eventually they'll start doing more of this stuff, but hey, it's all good. It's all for a good cause.

Edited 2013-01-04 08:28 UTC

Reply Score: 2

Currently running Mint
by Gone fishing on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:28 UTC
Gone fishing
Member since:
2006-02-22

For the first time since Warty I'm not running Ubuntu as my main OS because of this. I don't want my use, of my computer, being sent to Amazon or even Canonical. This is a shame as I prefer Unity to Cinnamon and it wouldn't take much for me to think the shopping lens was a good thing - remove it from the home lens by default. Make it customizable so I can decide, what on line searches I make from the Dash and make this easy to turn on and off from the Dash.

Now to be fair to Canonical it is easy to turn off the shopping lens or sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping. Nevertheless I don't like this and I don't want to see Ubuntu Gatorised.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Currently running Mint
by UltraZelda64 on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 13:13 UTC in reply to "Currently running Mint"
UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Doesn't Fedora have Unity? If you really want Unity bad enough, and Fedora's other quirks are acceptable, then it might be worth checking out.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Currently running Mint
by woegjiub on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 14:23 UTC in reply to "Currently running Mint"
woegjiub Member since:
2008-11-25

The next version of unity is adding more switches for that, so you can enable and disable individual online lens home integration. For now, there is a disable button in the settings.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by gan17
by gan17 on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 12:52 UTC
gan17
Member since:
2008-06-03

I guess it wouldn't be so bad if they made the feature an opt-in option rather than one you'd have to opt-out of.

Reply Score: 5

I think people are overreacting
by Nelson on Thu 3rd Jan 2013 14:37 UTC
Nelson
Member since:
2005-11-29

Now I haven't used 12.10, but it seems like they do data collection the right way. You can opt-out, and they have a privacy policy letting you know what they collect.

What is the issue? I understand some of you would rather no data be collected at all, but then you also would like a free OS and with that, all your pie in the sky free OS principals too.

Canonical is a business and has to face business realities. If this pays the bills, is done in a reasonable way, and doesn't violate any common sense privacy concerns, then why not?

It must be terrible to do any kind of development for such a pedantic bunch of lunatics.

Reply Score: 4

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

Nelson,

The problem is that privacy encroaching behaviours should be opt in for consumers so that they make a conscious & informed decision on the matter. Unfortunately it's standard practice in most commercial industries to use opt out approaches instead, and I don't think there's any secret as to why.

Look at US banking. Banks collect personal information on an opt-out basis about their customers and resell it, fully knowing that it's going to be used by advertisers to send unsolicited mail. I called my bank to opt-out, which is when I learned that each single account under me had it's own opt-out flag. If I were in the position to change the law, I'd at least require the advertisers to disclose their source of the information so that the recipient knows exactly who ratted out their personal details.

Of course advertisers love having blanket access to personal data, but there needs to be a balance and my own opinion is that the balance should be an "opt-in" permission basis.

Reply Score: 1

Nelson Member since:
2005-11-29

I just don't think its that big of a deal IF they are clear that you can opt-out, and exactly how to do so.

However, for the sake of common ground, switching it to opt-in would likely appease a bunch of people.

Reply Score: 2

Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

I take bigger issue with the previously discussed donation model they came up with recently. On the front page, they say "Ubuntu is free and it always will be." Yet when you go to download it, you are faced with the donation widget which has every slider already set at $2 each, for a total of $16. It's trivial to hit the "Not now, take me to the download" link, but that link is off to the side in a thin font face, while the donation button is big and bold. If you set all the sliders to zero, you get a menacing looking skull icon, instead of the nice looking "your donation costs the same as this funky item you buy every day" icons.

I realize they are up front about it being a donation and not a license fee or sale price, but the entire presentation is designed to guilt you into paying up.

It's not really a big deal overall, but it's still far worse than a shopping lens that is a single command away from being disabled.

Reply Score: 2

Lazarus Member since:
2005-08-10

If you set all the sliders to zero, you get a menacing looking skull icon, instead of the nice looking "your donation costs the same as this funky item you buy every day" icons.


Not that I didn't believe you, but I just had to check that myself. It also tops out at the price of a dromedary camel =/

Anyway, what I first noticed when I went to ubuntu.com was the following text in a great big strip across the top of my screen:

We use cookies to improve your experience of ubuntu.com. By continuing to explore without changing your settings, you are agreeing to accept them. To learn how to change these settings, please see our privacy policy.


Not only does it not really make sense, but I only have my browser set to block third party cookies, so I'm getting an eye-full of non-sense over something that's likely ad related (best guess, not taking the time to look).

Ubuntu, I block third party cookies for reasons that are none of your business. By continuing to employ them, while putting up a great big nag banner complaining about it, you are agreeing to suck my balls. To learn how to suck my balls, go to Amazon.com and purchase a pornographic primer.

Yeah, that was juvenile and stupid, but it made just as much sense as the garbage on ubuntu.com.

If this is how they treat potential users, it is no surprise at all that they'll pull crap like the Amazon search lens being enabled by default.

Reply Score: 1

Morgan Member since:
2005-06-29

The cookies thing isn't actually Canonical's fault. It's due to a new internet privacy law in the EU. A lot of non-US sites I visit are now displaying some form of disclaimer to comply with the law. Details at this link:

http://www.netmagazine.com/features/beginners-guide-new-cookie-law

Reply Score: 3

Lazarus Member since:
2005-08-10

Ah, thank you, good to know.

Reply Score: 2

UltraZelda64 Member since:
2006-12-05

Wow... I didn't even notice their site got so bad. I bet they wish now that they didn't promise right from the start that Ubuntu will be free, because now it wouldn't exactly be a good idea to change that and force charging as I'm sure they'd love to do since they've reached such popular status. I looked at the site, and it really does seem to give more prominence to donating than actually downloading.

I would argue that the "download" page is actually the worst place to put this kind of nagging/begging anyway. It should be a dedicated page linked to on the home page (and other pages) where everyone will see it, neatly out of the way but still visible. What happens when potential new users arrive to the site? They might be impressed at first, but then scared away by the download page before they even get to try it. From a possible new user's perspective, it would seem more like they're begging for a donation first, being given a download later.

Meanwhile, all the faithful users of the distribution will no doubt remember the Ubuntu website and check it periodically for updates. These people will have already seen all there is to see at the site, so the existence of a donation page will not be unknown. They already know and probably like Ubuntu; these are the people that are likely to be willing to donate, and they need no help learning about donations. Why scare away the newcomers?

Reply Score: 2

benali72
Member since:
2008-05-03

We need firewalls for Linux that make it easy to prevent programs from sending data out of the customer's client. Right now most of the firewalls like UFW do not let you do this. If you could easily configure this by application (as ZoneAlarm lets you in Windows) then you wouldn't have to worry about this. Just prevent the sending of data through your firewall.

All the people posting about an unfair jab at Microsoft should actually read the article cited in the initial post -- <a href="http://redmondmag.com/articles/2010/07/01/what-does-microsoft-know-....

Reply Score: 2