Upgrade to Ubuntu 12.10 (Quantal Quetzal) and you’ll run into a surprise – Ubuntu now shows you advertisements for Amazon products when you search in your dash. There’s also an Amazon shortcut pinned to Unity’s launcher.
There are several ways to disable these ads, and they aren’t immediately obvious. However, you can easily disable the Amazon search results if you don’t want to see them, or if you’re concerned about the privacy implications.
How The Amazon Ads Work
When you perform any search in Unity’s dash, your search terms will be sent to Canonical. Canonical forwards these search terms to third parties, such as Amazon, on your behalf. This means that Amazon can’t tie your searches to you personally.
Canonical receives these search results from Amazon and sends them back to your computer, where they’re displayed in the dash. As Amazon is a large website with a wide variety of products, some users have reported NSFW (not safe for work) products turning up when they perform searches in the dash.
You can click the information icon at the bottom right corner of the dash to view the legal notice, which explains exactly how this works.
If you click an Amazon search result and buy the product — or buy anything else on Amazon after clicking one of the ads – Canonical gets a cut of your purchase from Amazon, helping fund Ubuntu’s development.
Disable Online Content in the Dash
You can disable all online content in the dash from the Privacy control panel. Bear in mind that this also disables other types of online searches, such as the online video feature in the dash.
To launch the Privacy control panel, search for Privacy in the dash and launch the Privacy application.
Set the Include online search results slider to Off and you won’t see Amazon ads in Ubuntu’s dash.
Remove Only Amazon Search Ads
If you’d like to continue using some types of online content in your dash but you want to disable the Amazon search results, you can uninstall the unity-lens-shopping package to remove only the Amazon advertising.
To uninstall the package, open a Terminal window from the dash.
Type the following command into the Terminal window and press Enter:
sudo apt-get remove unity-lens-shopping
Enter your password, type Y to confirm, and Ubuntu will remove the package.
The ads will disappear after you log out and log back in.
Remove the Amazon Launcher
The Amazon shortcut on the sidebar – which launches the Amazon website in a browser when clicked — is very easy to remove. Just right-click it and select Unlock from Launcher.
If you’re curious why Canonical added the Amazon search results, you can read Mark Shuttleworth’s “Amazon search results in the Dash” blog post where he addresses criticism from Ubuntu users.
Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.
- Published 10/19/12