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

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 …

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  1. Mayday Silver badge
    Flame

    User needs

    "We want to be able to focus our engineering efforts on the things that matter most to our users"

    How about a small amount of privacy and not needing to slurp everything I do or see?

    Also consider the average Linux user is more savvy than an average Windows user when it comes to this sort of thing and can just change distro. Windows users like your mum and dad dont know anything else and/or generally wont/dont care.

    1. Beau
      Flame

      Re: User needs

      "Windows users like your mum and dad don't know anything else and/or generally wont/don't care."

      Hay! I'm a Linux user, I do admit it's not Ubuntu. And I'm well the wrong side of 70, a Dad, and a Granddad, and this year will become a Great Granddad as well! So there you youngsters!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: User needs

        Well, I'm a grandad, and me DearOldMum has been a Linux user for around 10 years now. Dad's been a Linux user since 1999 ... although he (like myself) has kept a Win2K machine around for AutoCAD2K ... air-gapped, of course.

        1. el_oscuro

          Re: User needs

          My Dad is almost 80 and a great grandad. Besides Linux, he also has a Mac and Windows 7 (safely disconnected from the network of course). His old system76 was about to give up the ghost, so I ordered him a new bare bones and gave him a link to the Ubuntu ISO. Not wanting to fuss with BIOS settings and such, he went to Fry's to get a teenager to install it for him for $50. Afterwards, I had him install the full development toolkit:

          sudo apt-get install build-essential dos2unix unix2dos

          With that he is in full business

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: User needs

        > I'm well the wrong side of 70

        It's always bothered when I was doing requirements when people would use that idiotic cliche "so easy that your mum could use it". Considering that in my mother's generation computers were much more difficult to use than today (you basically had to know how to build them to know how to use them), I knew right away I was sitting in front of an imbecile when those words were uttered.

    2. SolidSquid

      Re: User needs

      I could see this as plausable if they hadn't previously integrated the system search with Amazon, providing affiliate links which would make them money, as a default feature. Now I'm wondering if this really is just being helpful or if it's another way we'll find out they planned to profit

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: User needs

      "Windows users like your mum and dad dont know anything else and/or generally wont/dont care."

      My parents are long gone. I'm the senior around here, a Linux user and Unix user since well before Windows was even a thing. SWMBO (who, in fact is really the senior round here) is right now sitting working on her Debian laptop. Two of my older cousins have also been converted to Zorin. It's my children and grandchildren who're on Windows.

      TL;DR Stop making ageist assumptions. And put the apostrophes in "don't" and "won't".

      1. onefang Silver badge

        Re: User needs

        'TL;DR Stop making ageist assumptions. And put the apostrophes in "don't" and "won't".'

        And get off our lawn!

        1. wayward4now
          Linux

          Re: User needs

          "And put the apostrophes in "don't" and "won't".'

          And get off our lawn!"

          How about if you can't use apostrophes, get off my lawn! That has eclat!

    4. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: User needs

      You know, I'd be quite happy to tell a vendor of free software a little bit about the hardware I'm running, as long as it was *really* upfront about exactly what information it was, and how it would be anonymised.

      I trust Ubuntu about as far as I could throw an uninterruptible power supply.

    5. DougS Silver badge

      Uh...

      More like Linux users have a choice because there are multiple distros. You can't decide you want to get Windows from Apple or Samsung if you don't like Microsoft's policies.

    6. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: User needs

      "How about a small amount of privacy and not needing to slurp everything I do or see?"

      It _sounds_ like they're NOT doing that. But keep a skeptical/watchful eye on it, yeah.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hmm

      If one reads the article ignoring the sensationalist spin that Simon tries to put into it, and not having checked Ubuntu's actual statements, it appears to be the same sort of thing as Debian and a few other distros do: you can send the developers a list of what software is installed on your computer and some basic architectural characteristics of it.

      I don't use Ubuntu, I do not much like Canonical as a company, and I am aware of their previous form trying to become what Microsoft was during whatshisface's term, the bloke after Gates. But I think Simon just went for his usual easy clickbait approach instead of writing a proper informative piece.

      1. Psy-Q

        Re: Hmm

        Canonical wants to collect a lot more data than what popcon gathers. Also, popcon on Debian is opt-in, this Canonical approach is opt-out.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Either stop slurp, or I move on

      @Ubuntu: either stop slurp, or I move on to Debian or CentOS

      With the recent news that ​Microsoft and Canonical partner up, it looks very bad for Ubuntu and Linux in general.

      We all know their "Embrace, extend, and extinguish", also known as "Embrace, extend, and exterminate", phrase that the U.S. Department of Justice found was used internally by Microsoft to describe its strategy for entering product categories involving widely used standards, extending those standards with proprietary capabilities, and then using those differences to disadvantage its competitors. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embrace,_extend,_and_extinguish

      "Richard Stallman vs. Canonical's CEO: 'Will Microsoft Love Linux to Death?"

      https://linux.slashdot.org/story/17/09/24/2132218/richard-stallman-vs-canonicals-ceo-will-microsoft-love-linux-to-death

      To quote one comment from that Slashdot story:

      "Pretty much M$ embracing Linux at this stage is a shear act of panic and desperation. They are loathsome scum, they thought of Windows anal probe 10 (because when doctors use, M$ follows you right into the proctologists surgery and now monitors that camera hooked to a Windows 10 PC right up your butt). Strictly speaking according to law, Windows 10 should be legally banned from doctors offices https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physician%E2%80%93patient_privilege , yet it doesn't happen, why doesn't it happen, well, guess who M$ has guaranteed a back door to, yep, corrupt government agencies, hence no prosecution for a clear cut criminal act. You also have https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attorney%E2%80%93client_privilege , windows anal probe 10 again floating law by not ensuring the privacy of client lawyer discussion (both sides by law are require to be secure, guess who wants that back door), take M$ to court, when you and your lawyer have windows 10 installed, yep, uh huh, good luck with that.

      It is not only evil, it is factually illegal and it is not being prosecuted, why the fuck not?!?"

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: User needs

      "Also consider the average Linux user is more savvy than an average Windows user when it comes to this sort of thing and can just change distro"

      But maybe this sort of information is exactly what's needed to help make Linux not the utterly crappy end user experience it is at the moment?

  2. HildyJ
    Angel

    Sounds like Windows

    It'll be interesting to see how the Linux fan bois who are always bashing Microsoft's data collection respond to this. The spokesman's justification could have come straight from Redmond.

    1. ST Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Sounds like Windows

      > bla-bla-bla [ ... ] how the Linux fan bois [ ... ] bla-bla-bla.

      Linux doesn't spy on its users. Ubuntu does.

      Learn the difference between a FOSS kernel and a commercial distro.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like Windows

        "Learn the difference between a FOSS kernel and a commercial distro.".....

        Maybe one in a thousand of the UK population does. I really doubt that its more that that and possibly a lot lot less.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like Windows

          "Learn the difference between a FOSS kernel and a commercial distro.".....

          Maybe one in a thousand of the UK population does.

          ITYF the proportion is higher amongst Linux users (other than Android users of course). Windows users? You're probably right.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sounds like Windows

            "ITYF the proportion is higher amongst Linux users"

            Agreed, but with current estimates showing that only 1.43% of desktops are Linux based compared with 82.68% for Windows it doesn't make a significant difference to the overall proportion.

      2. oiseau
        WTF?

        Re: Sounds like Windows

        "Linux doesn't spy on its users. Ubuntu does."

        Exactly ...

        I've sort of felt this coming on for a while, a gut feeling if you will.

        After trying Ubuntu and Mint and then watching the systemd environment develop, I have temporarily settled for PCLinuxOS/Devuan combo with a VM in each install for the odd MS stuff I may need a few times a year.

        But I will finally settle with anything Devuan based when it all gains some more momentum.

        Cheers,

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Sounds like Windows

          "But I will finally settle with anything Devuan based when it all gains some more momentum."

          Apparently the beta release of Devuan ASCII is quite a popular download, and it was only released a couple of days ago.

          Disclaimer - I run one of the Devuan mirrors.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Sounds like Windows

            "Disclaimer - I run one of the Devuan mirrors."

            Have an upvote for that and for providing the info. It should really have been one for each.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: Sounds like Windows

            "the beta release of Devuan ASCII ... was only released a couple of days ago."

            Now downloads, thanks. Will try the live version on SWMBO's laptop which currently has to run Stretch.

          3. VaguelyCompetent

            Re: Sounds like Windows

            Devuan ASCII works well for me. KDE isn't quite as polished as the latest Ubuntu Gnome offering but I'll happily accept that to be rid of systemd and Ubuntu snooping.

        2. Dinsdale247

          Re: Sounds like Windows

          Sounds like you need to start looking at FreeBSD.

          GhostBSD is a nice GNOME based GUI variant on 11-RELEASE and TrueOS has it's own Lumina UI that can be swapped out for most common desktops.

    2. Avatar of They Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sounds like Windows

      Simples, don't use ubuntu. You have a choice.

      You are correct, Ubuntu have just shot themselves in the foot by sounding like MS. Dix.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Sounds like Windows

        Ubuntu have just shot themselves in the foot by sounding like MS

        And that's just their latest foot-shotgun incident. I was using Ubuntu (from about the time that Mandrake/Mandriva started to fail as a distro) but stopped once they started to decide that the way that they would operate would move closer to the usual closed-source model. Implementing systemd didn't help..

        So now, my default is FreeBSD or Devuan.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sounds like Windows

        "You are correct, Ubuntu have just shot themselves in the foot by sounding like MS. Dix."

        So far as I'm concerned, Ubuntu shot themselves in the foot four times already.

        One: Putting in a default window manager not suited to real desktop use.

        Two: Mir

        Three: Ubuntu Edge (The price was ridiculous for what would effectively have been an experimental product. Pity, because it had a lot of potential.)

        Four: Systemd

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds like Windows

      At least we have a choice to switch to another 'non slurping' distro. Those of you unfortunate enough to still be handcuffed to Windows and bending over to take whatever Redmond sends your way.

      I ditched Ubuntu around the time of 12:10 because of their policy towards feeing back changes into the kernel source. Since then I use Debian or CentOS for everything these days.

    4. Dave K Silver badge

      Re: Sounds like Windows

      >> "It'll be interesting to see how the Linux fan bois who are always bashing Microsoft's data collection respond to this"

      Easy!

      1) Canonical provided a simple and clear list of what they want to collect, right from the off. MS didn't.

      2) Canonical provide an "Off" option that completely disables the data collection, and presents it to you during installation. OK it might be better if it was opt-in rather than opt-out, but the point is that it's easy to switch it off.

      Hence, you can see what they collect, and easily switch it off. If MS were clear and provided a functioning "Off" switch, there'd be a lot less animosity aimed towards them.

      PS: Also, not a Linux fanboi. I have Ubuntu on one system, but all my main machines run Windows 7.

  3. J J Carter Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Oh, the irony

    When something is free, you are the product.

    1. Andy Mac

      Re: Oh, the irony

      Of course, that’s no longer strictly true. It seems every paid product and service happily slurps your data too, these days.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its really worrying when someone like that doesnt grasp GDPR, and theres no soft opt-in

    1. big_D Silver badge

      That was my thought as well. This wouldn't play well with GDPR.

      We use Debian at work and that would also like to collect information, but the option is disabled by default - and it stays that way.

    2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Yep, And it's a bit odd, usually it's USian companies that have this arrogant attitude to laws in other countries, but Canonical is meant to be UK. They should now about EU privacy rules and GDPR.

      1. Naselus Silver badge

        "Canonical is meant to be UK. They should now about EU privacy rules and GDPR."

        I've yet to encounter a single UK company where anyone outside the IT department (who it was inevitably dumped upon) knows a damn thing about GDPR.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The office is in the UK, but developers are spread around the world. If anything, few people from developers up to CxOs have any idea about what GDPR really means, and even fewer if you look at developers outside of EU.

        Manglement makes everyone look at a PowerPoint so they're free of wrongdoing though.

      3. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        "Canonical is meant to be UK"

        Yet they default everything at installation time to US settings.

        Yes I realise the US is where the majority of English speaking customers is, but they could make life a bit easier for their home customer base here.

    3. khinch

      "Its really worrying when someone like that doesnt grasp GDPR, and theres no soft opt-in"

      GDPR applies to "personal data". According to the GDPR FAQs personal data is "Any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address." (https://www.eugdpr.org/gdpr-faqs.html)

      I don't see anything in the list of what Canonical intends to collect that fits that description. The closest example in the FAQ description that could cause Canonical issues is IP addresses, which may be why they seemed to be very clear that IP addresses would not be collected.

      I'm not sticking up for Canonical here, just making the point that I don't think GDPR will affect them based on the list in the article.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        You've not heard of browser fingerprinting by looking at a whole set of variables not too dissimilar to what Canonical want?

        If it's not opt-in then they could get into trouble.

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Question about the GDPR

          Does it apply to products that are offered free, like Ubuntu? If so, how would the EU administer penalties for non-compliance against them if they can't fine them for a portion of their revenue/profit when they have neither (they get donations from crowdfunding I believe, as well as money from the personal fortune of Mark Shuttleworth)

          As far as I can tell, they are effectively immune from the provisions of the GDPR if it even applies to them at all.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: Question about the GDPR

            Canonical is a big services company.

            The fines are something like 20M€ or 4% of income, whichever is the larger. At the least, they could ban it in the EU - although if you really wanted it, you could VPN it in from outside.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Question about the GDPR

              >Canonical is a big services company.

              But I don't *want* to be serviced! :(

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Question about the GDPR

            > Does it apply to products that are offered free,

            Yes.

            > like Ubuntu?

            Or Facebook, or Google search.

      2. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

        Blatant attempt to drive traffic to a commercial site?

        "According to the GDPR FAQs ..."

        No thanks. That site is an advertisement for Trunomi products. Trunimo's site itself contains references to "Trunomi Ltd", appears to have British employees and mentions London a few times

        But it carefully avoids giving any idea of the company's actual location. No physical address, or any of the usual items such as Company Registration Number that one would expect of a legitimate UK or EU business or ogranisation.

        It's a Yank company hoping to cash in on fears about GDPR, and uses SEO to get there.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Blatant attempt to drive traffic to a commercial site?

          I think I found the one you mean. Try running whois on them. It doesn't look anything like what I'd expect from an official EU site.

          Googling GDPR FAQ brings up pages of ads, all from service vendors. Oddly enough it doesn't seem to bring up anything from the EU itself. Attempting to search the actual EU official site, http://ec.europa.eu for GDPR FAQ doesn't actually lead to anything like an FAQ although, bizarrely, even though I'm querying an https page entering the query brings up a warning that the information I've entered is to be sent over an insecure link.

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: Blatant attempt to drive traffic to a commercial site?

            The national bodies are supposed to explain what this means for each nation, i.e. the ICO.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Blatant attempt to drive traffic to a commercial site?

          > It's a Yank company hoping to cash in on fears about GDPR, and uses SEO to get there.

          Indeed. People should just go to EUR-LEX as usual for the source of this or any other European law.

          If interested on more general / consolidated references, this is another authoritative source: https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-topic/data-protection_en.

          Interestingly, if you type in "GDPR" or "general data protection regulation" in Gurgle, all you get is crap CEO sites. Mind, that's what you get most of the time when you type in anything in Gurgle these days.

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