In its recent iterations, Ubuntu has been shipped with a special new feature which allows users to search things simply by searching the Dash. Whereas Canonical deems this new feature as highly useful, Richard Stallman, President of the Free Software Foundation, has called it highly unethical and deems Ubuntu as a ‘spyware’ on account of this.
The chief issue that led many to criticize Canonical is that when Ubuntu users search Dash for files, they are also shown results from Amazon, citing different products. If a user clicks on one of these links and buys a product, Amazon pays Canonical as an affiliate.
Stallman has been a vocal opponent of this feature in Ubuntu. In a recent blog post that he penned down, he termed Ubuntu a ‘spyware.’ In the post, he wrote, “When the user searches her own local files for a string using the Ubuntu desktop, Ubuntu sends that string to one of Canonical’s servers. … Ubuntu uses the information about searches to show the user ads to buy various things from Amazon. Amazon commits many wrongs. By promoting Amazon, Canonical contributes to them. However, the ads are not the core of the problem.”
Stallman further alleges that Canonical actively spies on its Ubuntu users, “The main issue is the spying. Canonical says it does not tell Amazon who searched for what. However, it is just as bad for Canonical to collect your personal information as it would have been for Amazon to collect it.”
Canonical, on the other hand, is of the view that the way it gathers users data doesn’t violate their privacy. Moreover, it gathers the data to essentially improve user experience by dishing out relevant results without a user having to go to a browser to look them up.