On Privacy and Unity

Ubuntu Community
Ubuntu Community by Doctormo

A few weeks back I exchanged e-mails with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (Canonical Legal and Richard Stallman) a non-profit organization that has always championed privacy of people worldwide. The intention behind these communications was part of a process to improve the coverage that OMG! Ubuntu! was doing surrounding the Shopping Lens Feature because both Joey and I wanted to ensure we were providing factual information on privacy with the most diverse amount of information possible for readers and the Ubuntu Community.

Yesterday the EFF posted a blog post discussing some privacy and security issues that they think can be improved and I agree with them on the privacy policy as I think it can be written a bit more clearer but as for the Unity Dash being opt-in not opt-out I’m not sure that this is a privacy concern.

I think users are given a clear choice on whether to have the feature on or off and that being said I do think in Ubuntu 13.04 we will see the Dash having more and more results from different sources by default (in fact this was discussed at UDS-R just a few hours ago) at least that is my hope and I think when that is accomplished those who were critical of having Amazon results in the dash will understand the bigger picture of bringing more data to the desktop.

I mean why would users not want to have awesome results just a click away instead of waiting for a web-browser to start and then having to type out a url. Unity is becoming more and more a world-class experience and I think users should dive in more and be a bit more patient as the features landing are refined and the content improved.

Here is just one example of a new lens that bring more great content to the Ubuntu Desktop:

Minecraft Wiki Lens
Minecraft on the Desktop… OMG!








  1. Tuxedoar says


    The main concern I have is that, prior to any search, there should be a clear notification to the user saying that whatever is looked for in the dash, it is sent as a request at Canonical’s servers first, and then to Amazon. Next to such notification, an option should exist to say “I don’t want my queries going outside to Amazon” or “I want to do a local search ONLY”.


    • says

      I totally understand that I think there should be a initial bubble notification that explains the feature to people on their first time booting into a fresh install or after an upgrade. I do not think just having a “Legal Notice” link is effective in clarifying to users that their searches for local content may also result in sending queries to the WWW.

  2. Havvy says

    Cool that you can do this, but in game mods (NEI, TMI, CraftBook) tend to be more useful, since you dont’ have to leave the game to get recipes.

    • says

      Sure but if your not in-game it can be useful as a reference tool. I think we will see much more content brought to the Unity dash in 13.04… One thing I would love to see is IMDB and Wikipedia.

  3. AnonymousCoward says

    “I mean why would users not want to have awesome results just a click away”

    Because those results are awful and unexpected. I challenge you to find a single reviewer who likes the new opt-out “more suggestions” box. For every reviewer you find, I’ll find ten who don’t. I’m serious. List all the people you find who like it, and I’ll take time out of my day to list ten times as many people who don’t.

    “I think users should dive in more and be a bit more patient as the features landing are refined and the content improved.”

    And I think Canonical and Ubuntu devs should be a bit more patient and be prepared to remove badly working, unpopular and privacy invading (according to the EFF) software. If you don’t want to suffer bad publicity for releasing a bad product, don’t release it.

    The example you gave is opt-in, (you have to select the Minecraft lens and it behaves as expected), which is fine. Opt-out is not.

    If you won’t listen to users, if you don’t care about bad publicity enough to fix it, if
    you don’t listen to the EFF, why should I trust your opinion that it’s
    going to get better and users are going to like it?

    • AnonymousCoward says

      Just wanted to say that I was a little harsh yesterday, and I remain hopeful that Ubuntu devs will fix this.

  4. mattisan says

    “I mean why would users not want to have awesome results just a click away?”

    Simply because the shopping lens effectively removes your right to focus on your original purpose without distraction .

    Most users have a predefined purpose for sitting down in front of a computer. Mostly it is one that does not include “going shopping” every time they hit the Enter button.
    Let’s face it, if you have been using a computer for any length of time, you have your favourite programs to do specific tasks, your favourite tools, and probably your favourite subscriptions to sources for music, movies, and information. And you already know how to find them.

    Just because you are looking for a file or a program, does not mean you want to go outside your computer. When you are searching for information, the problem is not lack thereof, but rather it’s over-abundance. The challenge is to filter the volume down, not up.

    You can still keep the suggestions “only a click away,” if you put that click in front of the in-your-face shopping lens. That way the users can focus on what they have to do and elect to go sampling, exploring and shopping at the appropriate time and place. That way, it is selectable, only a click away, and it won’t offend or upset anyone.

    Most of all, you wouldn’t need to spend energy, time or money to defend it. You could proudly promote it as an excellent feature that it deserves to be.