I threw together this post because I felt the need to clarify my stance, and some general knowledge about how your Dash search results in Ubuntu are not anonymous, no matter how much others may want you to believe.

The reason for this post is an short blerp on /. (Slashdot) which states “The Dash Is Now Anonymized In Ubuntu 13.10″. It’s not. The post on Slashdot links to a discussion that I participated in on Google + from  who originally posted;

“The smart scopes server now anonymizes images before serving them to your Dash. :-) #ubuntu #privacy“.

That post is found here for reference.

First let me explain that I have not personally researched or deeply analyzed any code regarding Unity, or Dash search (smart scopes) etc. I can however make some general assumptions and point to some documents that further prove my claim with ease. I think you will agree.

1. Search results are sent to Canonical, and then to the third parties. Rather that data is “anonymized” when its received by Canonical is irrelevant. Canonical knows where the search originated as it has to send the results back to that same device. Could this be circumvented, possibly if they routed the search’s through TOR, or utilize some technology for onion/garlic routing or some other darknet/deepweb. But I can assure you Canonical is not doing this.

2. I believe that Canonical is making the search anonymous to the third parties, however, this doesn’t mean that Canonical could not be forced or compelled to identify those users to either law enforcement, or the third parties themself. This is also stated by Canonical in their Privacy Policy, and is common knowledge.

3. The privacy policy, Canonical’s stance, and legal requirements (data retention for example) could change at any moment, or Canonical could be sold/bought etc.

4. You can verify this by viewing the Privacy Policy, and nothing more. http://www.ubuntu.com/privacy-policy

  • Searching in the dash

    When you enter a search term into the dash Ubuntu will search your Ubuntu computer and will record the search terms locally. Unless you have opted out (see the “Online Search” section below), we will also send your keystrokes as a search term to productsearch.ubuntu.com and selected third parties so that we may complement your search results with online search results from such third parties including: Facebook, Twitter, BBC and Amazon. Canonical and these selected third parties will collect your search terms and use them to provide you with search results while using Ubuntu.

    By searching in the dash you consent to:

    1. the collection and use of your search terms and IP address in this way; and
    2. the storage of your search terms and IP address by Canonical and such selected third parties (if applicable).

    Canonical will only use your search terms and IP address in accordance with this Privacy Policy. For information on how our selected third parties may use your information, please see their privacy policies.

    You may restrict your dash so that we don’t send searches to third parties and you don’t receive online search results. To do this go to the Privacy panel and toggle the ‘Include online search results’ option to off. The Privacy panel can be found in your System Settings or via a dash search. For a current list of our selected third parties, please see the third party privacy policies.

What do we do with the information we collect

We may use your information in the following ways:

  • To authenticate access to certain features of our websites.
  • To contact you to respond to enquiries or to provide notices to you regarding your use of our websites or the provision of our services.
  • To provide services, products, process payment, and authenticate access (where required).
  • To analyse the performance or the appropriateness of products or services.
  • To comply with legal and regulatory requirements (including responding to court orders, subpoenas and to prevent crime). These special circumstances may require us to disclose personal information.
  • To contact you if your actions violate your agreement with us (if any).
  • To fix errors and analyse trends.
  • To study how anonymous users interact with our websites and services.
  • To market our products or services to you.

The definition of Anonymous
made or done by someone unknown. not named or identified
The search may be anonymized by Canonical before it’s sent to any third parties, however Canonical still knows (or has the ability to know) who and what you are searching for.

Expected responses
1. It can be turned off. Yes, we know….
2. This information is only handed over when legally required. Except, as we have seen post Snowden, the legal requirements are vague, issued by secret courts, served with gag orders, and occur sometimes with a rubber stamp.
3. It can be turned off. Yes, we know…
4. FUD. I don’t think so.

I’m interested in your comments.

Related Links:
Richard Stallman: Canonical will be forced to hand over data to various governments
RMS Speaks Out Against Ubuntu
Amazon search results in the Dash