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.
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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.
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?