The Electronic Frontier Foundation Has Numerous Issues with Ubuntu 12.10's Dash Search

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 01, 2012

While all signs pointed to it being a tempest in a teapot, and Mark Shuttleworth's  announcement about it reassured users, Canoncial's decision to include Amazon results in the desktop search function of Ubuntu 12.10 certainly irritated many Ubuntu users. Many were concerned that their personal data would be picked up by Amazon. This week, news has arrived that The Electronic Frontier Foundation has numerous issues with the Amazon search integration, and raises questions about how Canonical itself handles user data.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted much more about Ubuntu 12.10 than just the inclusion of the Amazon search results:

"The new version of Dash that comes with Ubuntu 12.10 introduces more than just Amazon ads. It includes a new legal notice that you can see by clicking the "i" in the corner of Dash that states that by using Dash, you automatically agree to send your search term and IP address to a number of third parties."

"...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. Ubuntu's new Online Accounts feature lets you authorize Ubuntu to use your accounts from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Flickr and other services for Ubuntu apps. Dash will likely search these services for photos, documents, and other content only after you've authorized Ubuntu to use them."

Canonical is actively taking user feedback now, and making improvements to Dash. According to the EFF, Ubuntu is beginning to load Amazon images over HTTPS to keep eavesdroppers from learning what users search for. According to an update from Canonical:

"Keeping the Ubuntu project sustainable requires the development of services that continuously improve the user experience and can at the same time be “monetized”. Evolving the Dash from a place to search for local files and software into a place that can give users instant access to any content, whether on your device or available online, personal or for purchase – is challenging, behavior changing, and if done right, potentially extremely valuable to users."

The most important thing to note is that for Ubuntu 12.10 users who wish to opt out of online search altogether, Canonical has introduced an “on/off” toggle in settings. You can opt out of the new search functions altogether if you wish.