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

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"what is no less a fingerprint that has a sufficient set of data to identify individual users."

Really? Let's look at the list:

"Ubuntu Flavour & Version" That's a fairly limited choice. Almost all the installations at any one time will be split between very few options there.

"Network connectivity or not" A binary choice containing even less information.

"CPU family, RAM, Disk(s) size, Screen(s) resolution, GPU vendor and model & OEM Manufacturer" With enough cash you can buy kit with the same spec by the pallet. No serial numbers of any of them. How do you distinguish them one from another by this information or from the next pallet load of the same spec?

"Location (based on the location selection made by the user at install). No IP information would be gathered" That's time zone and maybe language. We've made a start on identifying the individual - it's somebody in the UK!!!!

"Installation duration (time taken)" That, indeed, can very. But if I go off and take a break whilst it's busy copying the files how, from the time I allowed, do you tell it's me?

"Auto login enabled or not" Another binary choice.

"Disk layout selected" This can be a bit of an individual thing. But in some cases, particularly if I were just trying "let's have a quick look" I'd let it default so that layout carries exactly the same info as the disk size because it's what the distro would always pick for the disk size. If I were building for a particular purpose I might customise that. And having built for a specific purpose when I come to built the next I might vary that according to what I learned from the last. What's more, if I were building for a particular purpose I'd set up LVM with plenty uncommitted disk and more to each logical disk as needed so what would be uploaded at install time might well not be what would be seen a few months later.

"Third party software selected or not" Another binary choice.

"Download updates during install or not" Yet another.

"LivePatch enabled or not" and one more.

So that's 5 bits of binary choices, some mass production data and some fairly general variable choices above that. You mention fingerprints. In forensic science we used to think in terms of discriminating power and frankly I don't see much discriminating power in that lot.

Getting GDPR understood is going to be difficult enough. Let's not make matters worse with disinformation.

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