View Full Version : "Provide enough value to overcome privacy concerns..."

Tundro Walker
April 29th, 2007, 06:09 AM
I was strolling through the weekly Ubuntu Newsletter posted by Jenda, and it linked to an interview one person had with Mark Shuttleworth over dinner (http://weblog.infoworld.com/openresource/archives/2007/04/a_conversation.html) talking about the future of technology and Canonical/Ubuntu. I was a bit disturbed by one part the interviewer wrote...

Web 2.0 and open source. I've been beating the enterprise drum for so long now that it took some Web 2.0 thoughts from Mark to jar me out of my conservative views. Mark is convinced - and I agree with him, though I'm not smart enough to fully follow his thinking on it yet - that there must be a way to derive data from user interactions with code that could fund the development of the code itself, without charging for it. As I've suggested, perhaps MySQL could be doing this with the modifications developers make to its database, or with the stored data itself, if a way could be found to provide enough value that it could overcome privacy concerns? Not sure....I've underlined the part I'm concerned about. I'm wondering if Ubuntu is ultimately going the way of data-farming. IE: folks use it because it's free, but in return, some information on their computer can be used for profit... I'm not talking about stealing credit card numbers off your computer. But perhaps seeing what programs you use, how you use them, what hardware you use, etc, etc, packaging all that into statistical / metric info that could then be sold to interested parties. Currently, the "PopularityContest" program monitors what programs folks use on Ubuntu the most, so Ubuntu dev's can focus resources on making them better, more stable, or what-not. But, what's next?

I'm not so concerned about something like that, or about a program that monitors the hardware I have installed (as long as it doesn't shut off my OS like Windows XP does if I change my hard drive). I don't mind that info being posted to a company like Ubuntu, who could profit by selling such statistical info to companies that better want to target me as a user of their products.

But, will Ubuntu turn into the TV version of OS'? IE: will we be working on some program in Ubuntu, and suddenly a pop-up ad shows up? Or the program halts for a moment, so one of Ubuntu's sponsored advertisers could force us to listen for a moment? Will Ubuntu start farming more intrusive personal info, like email addresses I use, selling them to spamming advertisers?

I'm just curious what...

"if a way could be found to provide enough value that it could overcome privacy concerns"...means. One reason I gave up on Microsoft was because I was tired of checking in with them to use an OS I paid money for, and not so keen on them wanting to check my system all the time so I could keep using their OS.

But, if the long-term goal for Ubuntu is to be free, because it farms certain user data to sell for profit to maintain itself, what kind of data will it be, and what guarantee do we have that it won't escalate to more intrusive things (email addy's, personal info, etc)?

This is probably just "Minority Report" alarmist speculation, but Mark has made it known that while he's currently personally funding Ubuntu development, he eventually wants it to be self-sustaining. I'm just curious if this is how means to do it. (I personally thought it was by profiting in Linux-compatible hardware investments.)

April 29th, 2007, 06:40 AM
I strongly doubt it. This guy seems to be somewhat of a philanthropist, and his ideas about freedom and collective intellegence border on socialism. I am sure it is the mind of a person who wants to see their project survive and is trying to scrape together funding any way he can.

The idea of collecting peoples information to somehow profile them and target them for marketing is funny. This assumes that people can be so succincly summarized, and that our actions are logical and predictable. The fear that some of us have about companies mining our data is akin to someone thinking a camera is going to steal our soul.

They can market, aggregate, and do whatever the crap else they want with my data. I ain't gonna pay a dime for anything I don't have to.

Put that in your algorithm google!