Ubuntu wants to slurp PCs' vital statistics – even location – with new desktop installs

Data harvest notice will be checked by default

Poll Desktop computers powered by future versions of Ubuntu GNU/Linux may collect information on the PCs – unless users opt out.

"We want to be able to focus our engineering efforts on the things that matter most to our users, and in order to do that we need to get some more data about sort of setups our users have and which software they are running on it," explained Will Cooke, the director of Ubuntu Desktop at Canonical.

To gather that information Cooke proposed adding a checkbox to the Ubuntu installer that says something like "Send diagnostics information to help improve Ubuntu". "This would be checked by default" Cooke wrote.

Data Canonical seeks "would include" the following:

  • Ubuntu Flavour
  • Ubuntu Version
  • Network connectivity or not
  • CPU family
  • RAM
  • Disk(s) size
  • Screen(s) resolution
  • GPU vendor and model
  • OEM Manufacturer
  • Location (based on the location selection made by the user at install). No IP information would be gathered
  • Installation duration (time taken)
  • Auto login enabled or not
  • Disk layout selected
  • Third party software selected or not
  • Download updates during install or not
  • LivePatch enabled or not

Cooke added that the data-recorder would also install Popcon, "to spot trends in package usage and help us to focus on the packages which are of most value to our users." The Apporrt crash detection tool would also be installed, "to automatically send anonymous crash reports without user interruption."

Cooke was at pains to point out that IP addresses would never be recorded and that transfer of data would use HTTPS, but hasn't offered further details on just how Canonical would ensure privacy. His post added that users could inspect their own data and that the plan is to add a further opt-out possibility in GNOME's privacy settings dialog.

He also revealed the plan is to combine all user data into an anonymised pool allowing statistical analysis of the Ubuntu user population.

"The Ubuntu privacy policy would be updated to reflect this change."

Feedback on the plan posted to the ubuntu-devel mailing list is broadly positive.

The Register wonders if you agree, so has created the poll below. And of course comments are open on this story.

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