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Uproar over Amazon integration into Ubuntu search results 'FUD,' says Shuttleworth

News that Ubuntu 12.10, currently in beta, will integrate Amazon search results into some queries by default app quickly created a tidal wave of recrimination in the open-source community, with commenters on Slashdot, Reddit and elsewhere decrying the new system as intrusive and potentially harmful to user privacy.

BACKGROUND: Red Hat falling behind Ubuntu in enterprise sector, Shuttleworth claims

Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth hit back at the critics in a blog post on Sunday, addressing a number of key points and arguing that much of the hue and cry over Ubuntu's new deal with Amazon is overblown.

"We're not putting ads in Ubuntu. We're integrating online scope results into the home lens of the dash. This is to enable you to hit 'Super' and then ask for anything you like, and over time, with all of the fantastic search scopes that people are creating, we should be able to give you the right answer," he wrote.

If users don't want the Amazon suggestions, they can simply use a different "scope" -- Ubuntu's Unity interface provides a range of different search types that can be accessed with slightly different keyboard shortcuts -- or remove the Amazon results via the command line.

Furthermore, according to Shuttleworth, Canonical's own servers will handle the search traffic, so queries containing personally identifiable information won't be directly sent to Amazon.

"Your anonymity is preserved because we handle the query on your behalf. Don't trust us? Erm, we have root. You do trust us with your data already. You trust us not to screw up on your machine with every update. You trust Debian, and you trust a large swathe of the open source community. And most importantly, you trust us to address it when, being human, we err," he said.

Even if the initial distrust of the feature doesn't die down, however, Shuttleworth also emphasized in his post that it's still very early in the development of Ubuntu 12.10, and that things could easily change by the time the final version is released.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.


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