Users Upset as Raspberry Pi OS Now Pings a Microsoft Server During Updates

PCMag
PCMag
Feb 9 · 2 min read

The change was made without warning and potentially allows Microsoft to identify Raspberry Pi users.

By Matthew Humphries

The Raspberry Pi Foundation enjoys a good reputation among users, but it has been tarnished somewhat this week due to a change to the Raspberry Pi OS.

The officially supported operating system for Raspberry Pi single-board computers is called Raspberry Pi OS (formerly known as Raspbian). As HotHardware reports, the latest update to the operating system introduced a Microsoft software repository (repo) by default. The change is due to the Foundation adding official endorsement for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code editor, but it’s causing outrage among some users.

By including the repo by default, every time a user performs an OS update a Microsoft server is pinged. In a thread on Reddit, it’s highlighted that there was no warning before the new repo was added. There’s also a big privacy concern, with one Reddit user explaining, “If you’re logged into a Microsoft service, use Bing, or even pull something from GitHub they can “identify” you as a Raspberry Pi OS/likely Raspberry Pi owner and influence ads, among other possibilities.”

Inevitably, the addition of the Microsoft repo was brought up on the official Raspberry Pi forums, but anyone expecting it to disappear from Raspberry Pi OS are set to be disappointed. Gordon Hollingworth, Raspberry Pi Director of Software Engineering, commented on the thread stating, “Thank you, everyone, for your feedback, this won’t be changing because it makes the first experience for people who do want to use tools such as VSCode easier.”

Eben Upton, the founder of Raspberry Pi, was also asked on Twitter why there was a lack of transparency regarding adding a Microsoft repo to the OS. His response has not been well received, “Sorry: I can’t understand why you think this was a controversial thing to do. We do things of this sort all the time without putting out a blog post about how to opt out.”

Any Raspberry Pi users concerned about having the Microsoft repo installed on their computer does have options to avoid it by selecting an alternative OS. Wikipedia offers an extensive list of options. There’s also now a big question mark hanging over what else will be added to the official operating system without warning in future, and what that means for trust.

Originally published at https://www.pcmag.com.

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