Ubuntu’s Multisearch Mess-Up

Christopher Tozzi reported,

Beginning a couple of weeks ago, individuals testing the next release of Ubuntu, which will appear in stable form in October, found that performing a Google search from within the Firefox toolbar or from Ubuntu’s start page led to a custom results page with a modified interface. A vague wiki entry about the new feature describes it as part of an “experiment” to collect data about user search habits and send them back to Ubuntu developers, ostensibly in order to “lead into work that can try to reduce the time spent when searching. This discovery prompted an angry response in bug reports and an Ubuntu forums thread, where developers were blasted for unilaterally implementing a feature with questionable consequences for user privacy.

What we expect is communication and transparency from a Free and Open Source company and project. The issue is not the multisearch, the issue is doing something to our project without asking or letting us know. Ubuntu is suppose to be about community, and Linux is something you do with the community, not to the community. It is that feeling of it not being our distribution that is the problem. Once the community loses the feeling of ownership, the community will go elsewhere.

The following are just a few suggestions for future changes:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. The key to any relationship is communication.
2. Communicate what you want to do, why you want to do it.
3. If it deals with money, privacy, or freedom of choice be especially careful.
4. Have us opt in to those kinds of things, not opt out.
5. Make suggestion on it and get community feedback before implementing it.
6. Try to gain consensus whenever at all possible. At least try.
7. After you mess up, give an apology with a plan to prevent future events of this kind.

LINKS

http://www.workswithu.com/2009/08/14/multisearch-in-ubuntu-910-karmic-koala-alpha-privacy-concerns/comment-page-1/#comment-5333
https://wiki.kubuntu.org/Multisearch
http://www.asoftsite.org/s9y/archives/162-What-is-this-Multisearch-thing-in-my-Firefox-about.html
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/firefox-3.5/+bug/402767
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/firefox-3.0/+bug/402767/comments/87
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1219501

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Jay Forrest

Jay N. Forrest is an IT professional, an ordained Humanist minister, and a Certified and Accredited Meditation Teacher.