Unity Shopping Lens Returns NSFW Images

Integrating online features into local searches might not have been a great idea

By on September 26th, 2012 07:10 GMT

Users have encountered an interesting problem when they used the new search feature from Ubuntu 12.10, which will also integrate with an Amazon lens. It seems certain terms can return NSFW images.

The integration of an Amazon lens in the Unity Dash from Ubuntu 12.10 has proven more problematic than previously anticipated. Besides the security concerns raised by the users, the search itself is now subject of debate on Launchpad, even before it's actually implemented.

A user has reported a bug that affects the Unity Shopping lens. He reported that certain terms could return adult material, and he posted a few results.

The problem is not a bug per se, but more of an unwanted side effect of the searching algorithm. A lot of other users have agreed that some kind of filter must be implemented, although how it can be done remains a mystery.

Besides music bands with names that can be interpreted in different manners by the search algorithm, users could choose to give their pet pictures a troublesome name, or they could have a file named with the diminutive of Richard. The possibilities are endless.

Moreover, the devs from Edubuntu have chosen to disable the Shopping lens entirely.

“We do not want to expose users of Edubuntu to any inappropriate content. Additionally, we would like to avoid shopping suggestions in Edubuntu as it goes against the goals of keeping Edubuntu free,”
said Jonathan Carter, developer for Edubuntu.

He even underlines a major security concern, “The software also has some serious security problems, like sending potentially private user data in cleartext over the network that makes it unfit for use in Edubuntu.”

In Canonical's defense, Ubuntu 12.10 will encrypt searches made from Unity lenses, according to John Lenton, the senior engineering manager in the Online Services team at Canonical. In any case, Canonical will have to make some important decisions regarding the lenses and how they function.

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