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I received a link to the article "Ubuntu Spyware: What to do?" by Richard Stallmann which advises the reader not to use or recommend Ubuntu for several reasons:

  • It does not meet all four freedoms of free software.
  • Canonical encourages the use of non-free software
  • Ubuntu is spyware as e.g. the dash search queries are also sent to Canonical and Amazon to include further online results and ads!

They say that since 12.04 the local dash search automatically also performs an online search at Amazon. The feature might be turned off in the System Settings and all queries are anonymized by Canonical and routed through their servers, but that means that at least they know what we search. (Reference)

Additional to these accusations, I've also heard that e.g. the automatic bug reports may include more personal data than needed.

My question:

May please someone with deep knowledge of the mentioned parts of Ubuntu, it's security and privacy options and/or Canonical's policy on this comment on those statements and verify them? How much is true, what is wrong or exaggerated, how can the normal user avoid being spied on by either Canonical or any third-party companies like Amazon? Do the latest versions of Ubuntu still have the automatic network search and other critical features enabled by default or did/will they improve this recently/soon?

Thank you for confirming my trust in Ubuntu or opening my eyes about it - whatever is necessary.

Note: Please don't just write something you've read anywhere if you're not sure. An answer based on prejudices or what's believed by "normal"/non-expert users are not very helpful in this case.

marked as duplicate by Florian Diesch, Sylvain Pineau, xangua, Eric Carvalho, Pilot6 Sep 1 '15 at 3:59

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I will address your 3 main points one at a time:

  1. It does meet the four freedoms of free software. You can run whatever your want (provided that it's within the law), you can get the source code and tweak it and redistro it.

  2. Just because Canonical encourages the use of non-free software doesn't discredit them. That's like saying "Because Microsoft encourages you to use non-free software (like Office)" or "Because Apple encourages you to purchase iLife." It's just not a valid reason to discredit them.

  3. Yes the queries are sent back for processing, but so are Google searches, yet nobody's boycotting Google for that. Just because software send queries for server-side processing doesn't mean that they keep a record of that and use it or sell it. And any solicitations that they give you in those searches can be disabled (I believe they are by default). In the Ubuntu Software Center, you must explicitly enable software recommendations.

So this is not to say that you are 100% under the radar, but my point is that Ubuntu is at least as privacy-respecting as any other product. If you really are concerned about being tracked by someone, maybe you should consider not being worth being tracked!

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