Canonical has come in for a little bit of heat for the inclusion of the Unity Shopping Lens into the latest release of Ubuntu.

This new tool, installed and switched on by default (although you can turn it off if you want), extends desktop searches online. The upshot being that when looking for a file or application on your desktop, it will also perform an Amazon search for products with similar names and keywords. You then have the option to buy these products (of course netting Canonical a cut from the referral).

Many find this an objectionable direction for a free software platform to take, although Canonical have to pay their developers somehow, and the service model has its limitations. A number of people in Europe have questioned its legality, given the stringent EU data protection laws.

However, I think Canonical may get bit by the law of unintended consequences just simplistically piping a search string through a third party engine.

Check out what happened when I looked for the Terminal application:


I think being offered Playboy DVDs from within the desktop may get people’s backs up, even if the choice to ad fund development of the operating system doesn’t!