jameskga wrote: ↑
Tue Dec 17, 2019 2:59 am
I have been interested in this subject since I first discovered PIA is a leading donator to the Miint project, and is also featured in the Software Manager.
I've been aware since 18.x of PIA donating money to the project. I am aware Clem says donations do not steer decisions to include features. He emphasized this when a user requested a feature on a release notes comment section, after the user offered to donate extra to see special attention given to that feature. So I found it concerning when in the next Mint release PIA's tool was featured in the Software Manager, and maybe even a splash screen after first login.
I never said anything, because I wasn't ready to stir that pot when I noticed it. I thought, I'll keep this one in my back pocket, and one day, for a laugh, I might bring it up on the forums. Before reading this thread, I wondered if perhaps the project is simply too small, and that maybe I was the only person to notice it. Now I see that I was not the only one.
Because it appears to me that donations from a VPN provider with a high media presence did - in this instance - steer a proclivity to feature that certain VPN provider, despite Clem's insistence to the contrary. I love Mint, Clem, and his efforts. More to the point, I do not actually believe it is such a big deal if major contributions from PIA did lead Clem to include and feature PIA VPN software (in this case, steering new subscribers to PIA in the future, in return for the sponsorship). Still, it is something I take seriously, because the wrong choices can have profound effects on the integrity of the entire platform.
I say yes, that happened, yes it's problematic, and because there are such profound ethical implications, I would like to think PIA being featured after donating so handsomely to the Mint project was an isolated incident. No private company should be suggested or preferred. I take such a hard stance on ethics in this situation, that I believe if they donate money, special consideration should be taken to ensure they are NOT included as featured software suggestions to new users, just so there is no question whether their donations influenced a decision to drive open source software users to a private outside service.
Right there with you! I've donated to Mint before and once I'm in better financial shape (wife gets a job
), I'll absolutely donate more money to the cause. It bothers me that PIA (which is now owned by a company that has been know to produce garbage-ware) is Mint's only, platinum sponsor. The conspiracy side of me is a bit uneasy with that.
While I'm positive Mint has a large install base, compared to Windows, it represents a fraction of the desktop market place. And because it is a small community (relatively speaking), bad news would travel fast. --IF-- PIA started to lace their newer builds of VPN software with spyware, or if their software was confirmed to be doing something naughty and Clem still accepted donations from them, Mint would be guilty by association. At that point, I think people would abandon Mint out of fear that a spyware company could potentially be influencing the direction of Mint and putting in backdoors or telemetry gathering tools and reporting it all back somewhere *cough* Microsoft *cough*. If PIA's VPN software turns to garbage, and Clem continues to accept money from them, I think I'd have to possibly look elsewhere for a new distro which would SUUUUUUUCK because I love Mint and the Cinnamon desktop. I'd probably run to MX Linux in that case.
Since I cancelled my PIA account, I'll never install/use their software so not a huge deal. If PIA goes down the path of polluting their VPN software with garbage, it's a moral quandary that Clem and the gang will have to face......... keep taking money from a malware spewing company or publicly announce that they, in good conscious, can no longer accept donations from PIA and remove them as a platinum sponsor.
In closing, I don't want to sound like I'm beating up on Clem/Mint! Does Ubuntu have sponsors I don't care for? YES! Do those sponsors have a history of spewing malware? Off the top of my head, I don't think so. Has Debian done some things I morally object to, YES. You can't fight every battle and must pick and chose sometimes.
As time goes by, I take my digital privacy more and more serious. I was a big user of PIA's VPN software for years. Once I heard about the takeover, I was done with them. I understand that people need money to survive and put food on the table and a roof over their head but their is a cost associated with all that. Sometimes it's a monetary cost and other times, a moral cost. Clem is free to take money from whoever he wants as we're all free to use whatever Linux distro we want.
For now, I'll stick with Clem and the Mint team and give them the benefit of the doubt until/unless they demonstrate that they are no longer worthy of my trust and support. If I were them, I'd just keep a sharp eye out for any news in the VPN world about possible shenanigans that PIA might pull. If PIA proves to be an untrustworthy partner, it might be time for the Mint team to publicly announce they have been removed as a platinum sponsor.