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Richard Stallman says Ubuntu Linux is 'spyware'

Asks South American free software association not to promote it at events
Mon Mar 25 2013, 12:49

FREE SOFTWARE PIONEER Richard Stallman has asked a South American free software association not to promote Ubuntu Linux at its events because it "spies on its users" by collecting its users' desktop search activity and selling the data to Amazon.

Canonical released Ubuntu 12.10 last October with Amazon search integrated into its Dash desktop search function.

Although Ubuntu users can opt out and Canonical claims it anonymises users' search information before sending it to Amazon, the change resulted in Ubuntu users being shown Amazon ads in response to desktop search queries.

The 'feature' has attracted a lot of criticism and might have led some users to defect to other Linux distributions.

When Stallman's request was denied by the FLISOL event organiser with the excuse that it would limit user freedom of choice, Stallman fired off a response to the organisation's entire mailing list on Sunday. Parts of his email are quoted below, as translated by Groklaw.

"The issue I raise is about what should happen at FLISOL events. Give away copies of Ubuntu or not? Promote Ubuntu or no? I asked the organisers of the event that they, as a policy, not distribute or promote Ubuntu.

"Freedom of users is something else, and there isn't a conflict between a user's freedom and my request. If someone decides to install Ubuntu, I would consider it a mistake, but it's his own choice to do it. What I ask is that you don't participate, help or suggest that he do it. I didn't request that you block him from doing so.

"As a matter of principle, I don't believe anyone has a right, morally, to distribute proprietary software, that is, software that deprives the users of freedom. When the user controls his own software, he can install what he wants and no one can stop him. But today's issue isn't about him, what he does, but rather what you do with him."

As Stallman sent his email only yesterday, it's not yet known whether FLISOL has reconsidered promoting Ubuntu at its free software events.

These points might seem like splitting hairs, but apparently Richard Stallman - the author of the GNU General Public Licence (GPL), as well as the founder and president of the Free Software Foundation - is serious about them. µ


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