Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has revealed how the OS will address the ongoing privacy concerns around its online searching feature in Unity.

Most notably amongst his plans is the introduction of an incognito-style mode for ‘anonymizing’ Dash sessions.

Best Way to Handle it

Privacy concerns have dogged Ubuntu since the introduction of the ‘Shopping Lens’ in Ubuntu 12.10.

Several concessions were made shortly after its arrival to appease critics, including an off-switch and legal notice link on display in the Dash.

Now, in a bug report on where the Legal Link should open, Shuttleworth has revealed a three-step plan for ‘handling’ the feature in future Ubuntu releases:

  1. Putting Legal notices in one place (as well adding one to the installer)
  2. Adding an ‘incognito’ style toggle in the Dash for anonymous browsing
  3. Including individual toggles for scopes and lenses for customisation

The second of these options will likely disable all online searches/results in the same way as the current “on/off” toggle located in the Privacy pane of System Settings does.

“Toggle it, right there in the Dash, and you are totally certain you are not sending network traffic,” Shuttleworth explains, going on to add that, for total peace of mind, this network-halting toggle will ‘be enforced at the kernel level’.

Joining the toggle will be what many Privacy proponents have sought:: an up-front message in the installer. It’s as yet unclear whether this will have an “opt-out” toggle clearly displayed.

These two new approaches join the one we already know about: per-scope toggling.

This feature, announced alongside the new ‘Smart Scope’ service that turns the Dash into an intelligent and relevant ‘search hub’, will allow Ubuntu users to pick which services, scopes and lenses are used in the Dash.

Ubuntu 13.04 intends to ship with around 100 scopes by default, the relevancy of which will be ‘crowd-sourced’ from users own behaviour.

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