Richard Stallman’s appeal to ditch Ubuntu
One of the major advantages of free software is that the community protects users from malicious software. Now Ubuntu GNU/Linux has become a counterexample. What should we do?
Well, please don’t fork your eyebrows against me as these words are not mine. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman has now attacked Ubuntu distribution calling it a ‘spyware’ and as bad as Windows. Where are you my big B, Stallman listened you one more time and now propagating your idea!
Stallman is not the first person to criticize Canonical’s search but he is certainly one of the most influential people and whose opinion is significant for the free software users. In his post on the FSF blog, Stallman has criticized Ubuntu and Cannonical (the company behind Ubuntu) for adding the search feature in the latest version of the distribution. In his blog post he explained about free software, its principles and how Ubuntu is violating it.
Free software gives users a chance to protect themselves from malicious software behaviors. Even better, usually the community protects everyone, and most users don’t have to move a muscle. Here’s how.
Once in a while, users who know programming find that a free program has malicious code. Generally the next thing they do is release a corrected version of the program; with the four freedoms that define free software (see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html), they are free to do this. This is called a “fork” of the program. Soon the community switches to the corrected fork, and the malicious version is rejected. The prospect of ignominious rejection is not very tempting; thus, most of the time, even those who are not stopped by their consciences and social pressure refrain from putting malfeatures in free software. But not always. Ubuntu, a widely used and influential GNU/Linux distribution, has installed surveillance code. 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. (Canonical is the company that develops Ubuntu.)
Stallman argues that the malicious code included in Ubuntu is damaging the entire free software community. He has a suggestion to get rid of the problem too. Just say ‘no’ to Ubuntu! He writes, “If you ever recommend or redistribute GNU/Linux, please remove Ubuntu from the distros you recommend or redistribute.”
He also writes, “Ubuntu allows users to switch the surveillance off. Clearly Canonical thinks that many Ubuntu users will leave this setting in the default state (on). And many may do so, because it doesn’t occur to them to try to do anything about it. Thus, the existence of that switch does not make the surveillance feature ok. Even if it were disabled by default, the feature would still be dangerous: “opt in, once and for all” for a risky practice, where the risk varies depending on details, invites carelessness. To protect users’ privacy, systems should make prudence easy: when a local search program has a network search feature, it should be up to the user to choose network search explicitly each time. This is easy: all it takes is to have separate buttons for network searches and local searches, as earlier versions of Ubuntu did. A network search feature should also inform the user clearly and concretely about who will get what personal information of hers, if and when she uses the feature. If a sufficient part of our community’s opinion leaders view this issue in personal terms only, if they switch the surveillance off for themselves and continue to promote Ubuntu, Canonical might get away with it. That would be a great loss to the free software community. We who present free software as a defense against malware do not say it is a perfect defense. No perfect defense is known. We don’t say the community will deter malware without fail. Thus, strictly speaking, the Ubuntu spyware example doesn’t mean we have to eat our words.”
You can read the complete story on the Stallman’s blog itself. So if you are loyal user of Ubuntu, its your turn to take the decision. Please say you mind.