Ubuntu 13.04 will disable Dash online search by default: Mark Shuttleworth

Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, has finally listened to critics and EFF and said that the much controversial online search feature of Dash will be disabled by default in Ubuntu 13.04, which will be released later this month. Canonical was working closely with EFF, FSF and the EU privacy advisors and found it in best interest of its users.

“Users are our #1 priority and not our business interests,” said Shuttleworth in a statement, “the foundation of Ubuntu is people and if some decisions were made which put user’s privacy at risk, that would be very un-Ubuntu. We never shied away from trying out new things and we never hesitated in changing a decision for a greater good.”

The controversy

Ubuntu attracted quite some criticism when it made the online search opt-out by default in 12.10. Every keystroke that a user made inside Dash (even if it was to find a porn save on local hard-drive) was sent to Canonical servers where it was shared its partners and saved for an unknown period.

This opt-out search feature was becoming a serious concern as Ubuntu is being used by many military and mission critical organizations where recording and sending dash search results to a company’s servers was a serious security threat. According to reports, the UK lawmakers were working on a directive similar to the cookie law, to protect Ubuntu users, which would force Canonical to show a pop-up to users before they run a Dash search.

The company is making these changes to it’s dash search in order to comply with the proposed law. According to reports Microsoft was tapping the government organizations planning to migrate to Ubuntu pointing at these privacy risks. With this move Canonical has not only taken a ‘selling point’ away from Microsoft but also ensured that it won’t be violating any law.

The implementation

In order to comply with the proposed amendment, when a user runs Dash search for the first time he will be presented with a ‘beautiful’ overlay window with an ‘enable online search’ button which is turned off by default. A user can enable it easily by sliding it to the right.

The button will also contain simplified language instead of some tiny, unfindable i which links to a confusing legal page. The text will clearly state:

You can now also search some online sources that we have selected for you. When you run a search in dash the keystroke/text will be sent to Canonical servers so that we can offer you better results. These keystrokes can be shared with our partners and will be saved for better service. If you don’t want us to record your dash search, please don’t enable the online search.

The changes have already landed in the daily builds and if you are running Raring Ringtale it is recommended that you upgrade your system.

“We are not the Facebook of operating systems,” said Jono Bacon, “We respect user’s privacy and freedom and our primary concern has always been users, so it’s natural.”

About Swapnil Bhartiya

A free software fund-a-mental-ist and Charles Bukowski fan, Swapnil also writes fiction and tries to find cracks in the paper armours of proprietary companies. Swapnil has been covering Linux and Free Software/Open Source since 2005.

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