Ubuntu bakes Amazon search results into OS to raise cash

Ubuntu logoThe new version of Ubuntu Linux slated for release in October introduces a feature that some users claim is at worst a violation of privacy or, at best, generally annoying. Ubuntu 12.10 introduces search results from Amazon into the Dash. That means you could be searching for a file or application on your computer and get shopping results under a "more suggestions" section after your general results.

Canonical Founder Mark Shuttleworth took to his blog yesterday to defend the move, saying the "Home Lens of the Dash should let you find *anything* anywhere." Adding Amazon results is just the first step in expanding the scope of Dash searches from the user's computer to the entire Web, a sensible place to start as Amazon affiliate links will help Canonical fund the development of Ubuntu. "We picked Amazon as a first place to start because most of our users are also regular users of Amazon, and it pays us to make your Amazon journey get off to a faster start," Shuttleworth wrote.

In response to accusations of privacy violations, Shuttleworth wrote, "We are not telling Amazon what you are searching for. 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." The "we have root" statement raised some more hackles in the comments section of Shuttleworth's blog. Explaining what he meant, Shuttleworth said, "Every package update installs as root."

Shuttleworth also noted that users can use hotkeys to limit search results to local results, such as just applications, or remove the new functionality entirely. The terminal command to do so is "apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping."

In practice, it's not quite as intrusive as, say, the "special offers" on Amazon's Kindle Fire. But user complaints have increased over the past few days as people test out the prerelease version of 12.10. One user filed a bug report suggesting that Amazon make shopping results a separate, opt-in portion of the Dash. Not everyone hates it—a commenter on Shuttleworth's blog wrote, "I only wish I’d known about this before spending £400 odd quid on Amazon last week, I would have affiliated it to Ubuntu."

OMGUbuntu has more on how the Amazon shopping lens works in practice, including screenshots. In addition to the shopping results, the launcher bar in Ubuntu 12.10 comes preinstalled with an Amazon Web app link, the site also reports. But getting rid of it is as easy as dragging the icon to the trash.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Amazon, Linux, Ubuntu

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