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Be aware: Not all LINUX distros are spyware free

Discussion in 'Computers, Hardware, and Operating Systems' started by KK4NSF, Apr 11, 2016.

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  1. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I'm a big fan of Linux. I use it on all of my personal computers, and most of my business computers. ( I do keep a Windows machine around, but it's mostly for translating/converting files nowadays)

    The main reason I use Linux is that it is typically less intrusive, and contains less built-in spyware than other operating systems. Unfortunately, this lack of spyware is not universal across the entire Linux Spectrum of Operating Systems. Some distros appear to contain built-in spyware that tracks your every keystroke and sends that data to a server.

    According to Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, "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." Basically, Ubuntu appears to contain a keystroke logger. He goes on to say "Ubuntu allows users to switch the surveillance off. Clearly Canonical thinks that many Ubuntu users will leave this setting in the default state (on)."

    Moreover, if an advanced user disables/ removes these "features" it appears that Ubuntu may reinstall them with the next update. Stallman: "People will certainly make a modified version of Ubuntu without this surveillance. In fact, several GNU/Linux distros are modified versions of Ubuntu. When those update to the latest Ubuntu as a base, I expect they will remove this. Canonical surely expects that too." I have also heard from other Ubuntu users that their "opt-out" selections have mysteriously changed themselves back to the default settings of allowing the spyware to operate.

    Now... does that mean that Linux is as bad as other operating systems? No... not all Linux distros, but maybe Ubuntu. Am I even opposed to Ubuntu? Not really.... BUT I think that anyone using that distro should be aware of the spyware, and keep a watch on their settings... or if they are concerned about their privacy, then they may want to consider switching to a more secure version.

    One note: Canonical has said that they will remove the "Amazon" portion of the spyware from the next release, which is due out in the next few weeks. However, they have not said that they will remove the keystroke logger.... so it remains to be seen whether or not the next release will actually be clean. My advice: be sure to look at your Linux distro carefully before using it for sensitive information.

    Also: has a rather strongly worded forum debate about the issue:
    It does contain arguments For and Against Ubuntu.... so you can read it for yourself and make up your own mind.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  2. W6RZ

    W6RZ Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The only time I use the "Search your computer and online sources" feature is to the find (and lock to the laucher) the terminal program after a fresh install. ;)
  3. M0PHE

    M0PHE Ham Member QRZ Page

    That article is 2 years old. The thread is even older. In Ububtu 16.04 the online search facility is still there but is turned off by default.
  4. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    yes it is.... but Ubuntu 15.xx is still being used by a huge number of users, due to free distribution of CDs attached to magazines as late as March of this year. Those users need to be aware of the potential problem. Also, the Amazon feature has been removed, and the online search feature might be disabled, but reports I've read seem to indicate that not all of the keystroke logging is turned off by default.

    My point here is that Ubuntu users need to be aware of the issue, and make sure that they turn off any unwanted features if they are concerned with privacy.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
  5. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    actually, we don't know that for sure since only BETA releases are out there, and the final release is not until April 21. Until then, what is on or off by default in 16.04 is still anybody's guess.
  6. W9RDC

    W9RDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    This is illustrative of why I have stayed away from Canonical distros. They seem to be a bit more "Microsofty" than I care for. It's really kind of at odds with the core Linux philosophy.
    KC9UDX likes this.
  7. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well it's better than Red Star (Chinese) distribution and that North Korean one.
    K5PHW likes this.
  8. KK4NSF

    KK4NSF Ham Member QRZ Page

    Well.... you have a point.

    I trust those guys less than I do Google or Microsoft.
  9. KB3VWG

    KB3VWG Ham Member QRZ Page

    Yea, I switched to Lubuntu, because the default Ubuntu desktop is so intertwined with software that performs: online search, phoning home, etc.; and since the desktop takes less resources, I have more available for computing.
    KK4NSF likes this.
  10. KX4OM

    KX4OM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I run Linux Mint 17.3 Xfce on an old Pentium 4 workstation with 1.5GB RAM (one of several machines with Linux.) It is still rather slow with file management, after I replaced the initial install of Mint 17.3 Mate for that reason. Xfce is older and more loaded (size on disk and features) than LXDE. I'll install it alongside Xfce and compare.

    Ted, KX4OM
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2016

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