Big Brother Award

Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth wins Austria’s Big Brother Award

OPINION: Austria’s Big Brother Awards has picked Ubuntu’s founder Mark Shuttleworth for the coveted Big Brother Award for their online extension to local searches.

Ubuntu has been criticized by Free Software Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation and many other concerned organizations for adding a new feature in Ubuntu’s Dash which sends all search queries to Canonical servers located in the UK and the US.

So if I have files on Edward Snowden on my local hard drive and if I want to work on those files in Ubuntu, when I search the term Edward Snowden stories the search term will be sent to Canonical servers and then Canonical will decide what kind of results should be displayed. It’s very easy to pin-point the user who ran such query as Canonical also tracks the IP and other info on the user.

Big Brother Award

This information may be requested by NSA of GCHQ. Since Canonical is based out of UK and runs servers from US – it’s under the jurisdiction of both surveillance states. We don’t know if these agencies are already getting this data thanks to gag-order where companies are prohibited from disclosing that such an info is requested.

This is different from me searching for Snowden on Google (as many ill-informed Ubuntu fans argue). There is a reason why I keep data offline so that no one – even Google knows about it. My hard drive is my last wall of defense and Canonical has penetrated that wall as well and sniffing this data.

Canonical has set a very dangerous example here as someone like Microsoft which never tried it before is doing now.

What’s bad here and raises question is that despite repeated requests Canonical refused to make the tracking option opt-in. The feature is installed and enabled by default so the moment one installs Ubuntu it starts sending info to Canonical servers until the user deliberately disables it.

Free Software advocates have been asking Canonical to disable the feature by default so unsuspecting users don’t end up sending info to Canonical’s severs. Canonical has refused to do so. Many Ubuntu users have quit Ubuntu due to this feature.

In times like these when spying by these two countries is becoming such a huge concerned there are companies like ownCloud and Kolab Systems which are building technologies to protect users from surveillance states. At the same time it’s unfortunate to see that Canonical is going in an opposite direction by building a system which will make it easier for NSA and GCHQ to reach the hard drives of users.

Which now makes Ubuntu the least desired OS of all.

Why can’t Canonical see what ownCloud and MyKolab are doing and take a route which protects a user instead of creating easy tunnels for NSA and GCHQ?

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.

46 thoughts on “Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth wins Austria’s Big Brother Award

  1. Just like to point out the surveillance started long before the Tea Party existed. And since the Tea Party has very little true power in Congress they weren’t the people that approved it either.

    The correct people to blame are the established leaders of both parties since similar operations were done when both parties were in control.

    1. @jonsmirl:disqus Sorry for confusion. To put things in context, Mr Shuttleworth called the larger open source community (those who opposed MIR) as the Tea Party of Open Source…

      1. That was a poor analogy he used. The main objection to Mir is the contributor’s agreement where you sign over rights to Canonical which lets them resell your work under closed licenses. Of course Intel, Redhat, etc were newer going to sign that hence they nixed the Mir code.

        1. Was Canonical not aware that it won’t get support from all these vendors? If not then they are too naive to be in the field. If they did know yet went ahead with it then the deliberately did it then what they wanted to achieve – create rift within the free software community?

      2. The philosophy of open source is rooted in communism so for Mr. Shuttleworth to call the open source community as the Tea Party of Open Source really is an oxymoron.

  2. This is silly It’s working under the pretence that people are to stup!d to figure out that web results mean a web search was preformed. Its also very easy to deactivate.

  3. So Windows leaking your information all over the Internet and all those ADS in Windows 8 with no way to turn any of it off wasn’t enough for the award I guess. I nominate Austria for the Ignorance Award.

    Linux is Open Source people, if you don’t like something, fix it yourself. Good luck trying that with dirty Windows.

    1. How do you fix something where development is controlled by a company. People are requesting to fix it by disabling the tracking feature. If they don’t do it then another fix is by telling people to switch to something safer.

  4. What Ubuntu did was unprecedented I don’t need to have all the files on my hard drive scanned by someone so they can offer better search results that’s is absurd. My suspension tells me that there is more to it then trying to offer better search results. I guess censoring the web is not enough for big brother they also wants to censor what is on our hard drives too using file dna software. Now I know why Ubuntu is the official OS of China where Internet control is considered more extensive and more advanced than in any other country in the world. The governmental authorities not only block website content but also monitor the Internet access of individuals and now thanks to Ubuntu they also monitor your harddrive content. All you anti-corruption journalist of China brace yourself here comes the hard drive police

    1. Most computers in this world use Microsoft Windows. Everyone who uses Windows has a virus scanner which scans everything on their hard drive… the idea of the cloud infiltrating your HD is not new. I don’t use Ubuntu with Unity on any computer, I have Xubuntu on one, openSUSE on others and finally Arch and Trisquel. Protecting your data is a personal responsibility which requires alertness and not gullability. Trust people, but no one absolutely.

    2. These people should be more upset about thier respective governments first off, pretty sure there is no malicious intent on canonical’s part. Over time smart scopes are supposed to replace the software center (which already does track your searches Ip ect) Turn the option off … And yeah I wouldn’t use Ubuntu klyn tbh

  5. “Which now makes Ubuntu the least desired OS of all.”

    So a single feature which can be disabled easily enough is enough to declare the OS the “least desired OS of all”? The author clearly has an axe to grind and can’t be taken seriously.

    1. Please go tell that to FSF, EFF and many other people who have distanced themselves from Ubuntu. You are prolly not going to take them seriously a well? And when did defending the privacy of users became a non-serious issue?

      1. Very respectable people and opinions privacy is important. However to say “Ubuntu is the least desired is of them all” is an untrue statement. As for the defending the privacy of users defending them from what? if someone is repeatedly searching for Snowden and how to join the taliban and doesn’t turn off smartscopes he is a fool. (I’m in Canada so I guess I’m notas well informed if iI’m missing something everything is more relaxed up here)

  6. They are ALL haters!!
    Anyone who is against Ubuntu and its glorious greatness is a pedophile.
    Only pedophiles dont want to see Ubuntu succeed.
    When you hear someone criticize Ubuntu next time, ask him bluntly, “Have you ever molested kids before?”

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