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I am viewing this video (published on Feb 16, 2013) in which Richard Stallman tells us that when you type something in the Ubuntu search bar, Ubuntu will send the search query to their servers and in turn to Amazon's servers, in order for Amazon to return some search result from the Amazon website and display Amazon's personalized ads in the search results.

I have found some confirmation of this in the press for older versions of Ubuntu.

  1. Was this true in the past versions of Ubuntu?
  2. Is this still true in Ubuntu 20.10?
  3. If this is still true, can I de-activate it or do I have to change distro?
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    Why the downvote? Richard Stallman said it, I am not taking my news from some flat-earth website Jan 20, 2021 at 16:15
  • And now a close vote based on the fact that asking whether my search queries are sent to Amazon is an "opinion-based question". No it is not: either the search query is sent over the internet or is not sent over the internet Jan 20, 2021 at 16:23
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    Does this answer your question? Will all Dash input in 12.10 be sent to Amazon?
    – muru
    Jan 20, 2021 at 17:07
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    @Levente exactly, any further answers need to go there to the dupes
    – muru
    Jan 20, 2021 at 17:46
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    Obviously the 12.10 post answers the "was it ever true" question, and generally we collect answers for handling the same problem across multiple versions in the same question, which is the other dupe. If it doesn't handle 20.10 yet, then post a bounty on it - outdated answers are one of the standard bounty reasons.
    – muru
    Jan 20, 2021 at 17:49

1 Answer 1

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There was certainly a lot of noise about this about nine years ago. It doesn't feel like that much time has passed, but here we are.

Let's go through the questions:

  1. Was this true?

In Ubuntu 12.10 the Unity Dash would send search queries to a remote web server run by Canonical in an effort to return pertinent results. The data was said to be anonymised before non-Canonical APIs were called to return information such as weather, Amazon results, and the like. There was the ability to opt out, but this was seen by a lot of people as backwards.

Because of how the feature was implemented and the lack of discussions around it beforehand, the community was understandably vocal.

  1. Is this still true?

Nope. External searches were completely removed for the 16.04 LTS release and they have not been a part of any official Ubuntu flavour since.

  1. If this is still true, can I de-activate it or do I have to change distro?

Hope this answers your questions.

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  • Thank you, that answers my question Jan 20, 2021 at 16:14
  • You use the term "completely removed", yet the article you link as source uses the term "disabled (by default)", and also states that it can be re-enabled by the user. That's a pretty stark difference. IMO it would either be worth elaborating on, or maybe a newer source could be referred... With that said, currently, on 20.04, I don't find a way to opt in on the gnome-control-center GUI neither on the search, nor on the privacy tab. I looked through dconf-editor too, and the only thing I found appearing related is org.gnome.desktop.search-providers disable-external.
    – Levente
    Jan 20, 2021 at 17:01

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