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Gnome 3.8 and beyond: A revisit in Privacy

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a solid gnome

It is obvious that Gnome tries to provide a standard set of common applications (~20) like the File/Web Browser, simple Calendar and Notes Apps, an Instant Messenger and Contacts Book, Video/Music/Pictures Viewers and Players etc. All these applications are integrated 100% with the system and can silently communicate between them.

While you are free to use an alternative (ie another File Manger), is uncertain if this will work together with other Gnome Services like GOA and Gnome Notifications. Specially now, that Ubuntu runs its own platform (Unity) and is the most clear target for independent developers to build software, as Ubuntu maintain the largest user base -by far.

Of course Gnome cannot build the best File Manager or the best Media Player out there (there will always be a better choice), but a quite advantage is that Gnome can provide  through a solid system the best privacy and sharing features, that will be easily manage-able via its own Control Center.

gnome control center

Speaking of GCC, next mockups show a redesigned Gnome Control Center with a sidebar on the left, which makes perfect sense as the number of the options gets larger. This is a work in progress by John McCann and Allan Day and most probably won’t arrive in Gnome 3.8. So don’t get confused by these :)

gnome privacy

Security is used to implement privacy and privacy is what most people consider as security. The latest news in this area came by Stef Walter that makes some notes about how Gnome can be more secure by Sandboxing its applications.

Next is the Gnome proposal (similar to Ubuntu), how “Privacy” can be visually implemented inside GCC. This is very early work and hasn’t been yet marked as Gnome 3.8 feature.

Privacy Overview

Location Services

Screen Lock

Name and Visibility

Usage and History

Purge Trash and Temporary Files

Send Diagnostics

What is missing here is a way to reset everything back in defaults. That option might be included into the System Details View. Privacy seems simple and will easily be understandable from the majority of users.

Privacy Goals

  • Provide a way to see what information about you the system has stored
  • Be able to clear out stored personal information

Privacy in Gnome Live!

gnome sharing

When we are talking about privacy of course we are referring also in sharing. After all, there is not need to keep something secure if you don’t share. Gnomers have some huge plans in this area and try to provide a single view that will take care almost every aspect of “sharing” in the system.

Primary goals:

  • Quickly visualize all forms for shared content and connections, including:
    • internet connection sharing (hotspot)
    • remote access (ssh)
    • desktop sharing (vnc, etc)
    • file sharing (nautilus, gnome-user-share)
    • music/media sharing (rhythmbox, rygel)
    • bluetooth paired devices
  • Control how you appear on the network
    • bluetooth in discovery mode
    • computer identity (computer name)
    • mdns profile (avahi)

Secondary goals:

  • peer-to-peer file sharing (bittorrent etc)
  • drive sharing?
  • printer sharing?
  • Remote control pairing (whether a builtin infrared port is enabled, and any remote can work with it)

Open Questions:

  • Firewall?

Sharing seems to be deeply depending also in GOA, as Nautilus is going to get ownCloud support, while Videos, Music and Photos are also going to Sync with Online Services (YouTube, Flickr etc). Think this, that you sync your Videos (folder) with YouTube, and then you can share this folder to anyone else in the network, a media center perhaps.  Bluetooth and Network Hotspots sharing just with a few clicks? Cool!

sharing overview

Bluetooth Sharing

Personal File Sharing

Screen Sharing

Media Sharing

Remote Login

The question here is if the third-party applications will take advantage of these technologies. The answer lies in a well documented SDK that Gnome Team already works on.

Sharing in Gnome Live!

While all these will more probably come after 3.8, there is another cool application (which seems abandoned for a while), that helps us to create pre-defined restricted user sessions and seems more closer to arrive; it’s called Lockdown.

gnome lockdown

While Lockdown seems to be a product that targets in corporate environments, at the same time could be an excellent parent control tool, that can protect your kids from illegal actions or preserve them to access undesirable material.

There is no meaning to use a real case scenario because all of you understand the risks that a share computer even inside your home carries. Tech goodies are easy to get nowadays and many people have a spare laptop somewhere in the their house that every member of the family can use. In Gnome what we usually do is to creating different accounts for different users.

By creating a new user account we have two options, Admin or Standard User. Setting parent control tools on a Standard Account is something that requires the knowledge to do it, but most importantly requires the knowledge to think that we can do it.

What if in Gnome there was a third option.. A “Child Account” ? This would immediate make us to think, “hmm I have a kid, so I should pick that one” and right away an invisible mechanism would be activated and taking care all these actions to verify that our kid will stay safe from unwanted operations.  That is pretty much what Lockdown is about, cool huh ?


Of course Lockdown can serve many more scenarios by pre-configuring certain aspects of the Desktop

  • single purpose kiosk (eg. museum or library information point)
  • internet access point
  • classroom
  • enterprise workstation
  • children computer


There will be a dconf profile for each account type and accounts could be overridden by the user. Polkit will be the toolkit responsible for granting access to applications and other options of every account type except the admin.

Rūdolfs Mazurs the designer of Lockdown together with Ryan Lortie and AllanDay says:

If there is no appropriate account type or admin wants to review existing one, selecting More… will open the profile editor (so far the perceived editor is the pessulus next incarnation). The problem here is that pessulus is inherently a specific configuration editor, but the account type would suggest that this is a universal configuration tool. Maybe calling it Lockdown profiles… instead of More… would lessen the confusion.

Lockdown Gnome Page


All the above are work in progress and so far arrival dates are not available. If you make a tour in Gnome Live you will notice that the developing of new things is sick! Sick as huge! So delays and postpones are included in agenda!


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