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I noticed some files ~/.local/share/gvfs-metadata/ files. Those files are not text, they are some binary proprietary format. However, using a binary viewer (GHex) I could view some plain ascii strings in those files. I noticed that these strings contained sensitive information such as the locations of password key files.

In order to turn off this sensitive information collection "feature" I took the following steps:

  1. Installed Thunar (an alternative file system broswer)
  2. Disabled /use/bin/nautilus by removing executing permission (chmod -x /use/bin/nautilus)
  3. deleting the files ~/.local/share/gvfs-metadata/*

After rebooting I could confirm that (at least not over the course of a single day) the sensitive information was no longer being recorded in ~/.local/share/gvfs-metadata/*.

However, an unfortunate side effect of disabling nautilus is that the desktop background picture ceases to function and the desktop background remains black. Returning the execution permissions on /usr/bin/nautilus results in a return of the desktop background (but also in a return of the unwanted accumulation of sensitive information).

My question is:

  • Why does the background function depend upon nautilus (considering that file-browsing and desktop background are not naturally related)?

not to mention

  • How can I make background work again without enabling nautilus?

edit: I had previously noticed a similar security problem with the data files accumulated under the ~/.local/share/zeitgeist folder. I also found that using the clear zeitgeist history function didn't actually remove the sensitive information from the data files under the ~/.local/share/zeitgeist folder. I addressed that problem by removing the execute permissions from the zeitgeist service binaries "zeitgeist-*". Perhaps this is related to the problem, e.g., maybe the sensitive information is written to ~/.local/share/gvfs-metadata/... because it could not be written to ~/.local/share/zeitgeist/... ?

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  • My guess would be that it is connected to desktop background... Sep 3, 2017 at 17:03
  • Desktops show the files in your desktop folder as icons and you can open them, change their metadata, and create new ones. So they're usually managed by file browsers. This should be an answer...but I think your last question is the main one. Can you edit to add: Did you just install thunar or did you do more to configure it? Does your desktop work at all? Does it show files in your Desktop folder? Does a right-click do anything? If so, can you show a screenshot of that? Are you using Unity? GNOME Shell? What's the output of lsb_release -a? Sep 3, 2017 at 17:53
  • @Eliah Kagan - You answered the question about why they are related. I took the liberty to quote your comment and make it the answer Sep 3, 2017 at 18:05
  • @CraigHicks Thanks--looks good! Answer upvoted. I would've thought the method you used would still require Nautilus to be able to run--it's good to know it does not. Sep 3, 2017 at 18:06

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Thanks to @Eliah Kagan for the comment answering the question on why nautilus is related to background function:

  • "Desktops shows the desktop folder's entries as icons and you can open them, change their metadata, and create new ones. So they're usually managed by file browsers."

I found a solution to getting the background to work again from here. That solution is

  • gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.background active true

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