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Welcome to Ubuntu 18.04: Make yourself at GNOME. Cup of data-slurping dispute, anyone?

Pascal Monett Silver badge

"opt-out was probably the best choice"

Not if you want to be GDPR-compliant.

Methinks Canonical might be getting a call from some lawyer soon . . .

gerdesj Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

GDPR relates to personally identifiable data. I'm not sure that the metrics being gathered constitute a fingerprint.

BRYN

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

you need to read up on GDPR.

Nothing collected by Canonical is GDPR infringing. It's basic hardware metrics on a machine similar (but more techy) to the advertising blurb you see on Dells website giving ram and cpu specs etc. A machines info inst covered under GDPR or DPA.

Your helping to pour fuel on a heated debate by having no idea what your actually talking about. Stop it its silly.

Wellyboot Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

It was, until all the evil $"q$w started grabbing everything they could vacuum up about us.

Unfortunately this exercise does comprehensively fingerprint the host machine and Snowden did move the (acceptedly fuzzy) paranoid/sane boundary a long way into the previously paranoid side.

Are there any ideas out there about how we give useful anonymous feedback to developers?

hmv

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

Sorry. The data collected is not PII, so GDPR has no relevance.

Tom 38 Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

PII is a very specific legal term from the US about HIPAA. GDPR defines PD, Personal Data, which covers more things than PII.

viscountstyx

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

Afraid the lawyers would have much of a chance. Repeat after me:

GDPR ONLY AFFECTS PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION.

GDPR ONLY AFFECTS PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION.

This data is anonymised, no compliance required.

Doesn't matter if it's an opt-in or an opt-out. It's anonymous data.

(UK spelling)

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

IP is classed as PD so gdpr so if they get the ip then it's GDPR

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"PII is a very specific legal term from the US about HIPAA."

And, "PII" as used in the US is a bit of a lie. There's an awful lot of personally identifying information that isn't considered PII. And, in sufficient quantities, all information about you becomes personally identifying.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"This data is anonymised, no compliance required."

That's a pretty huge weakness in the GPDR.

bombastic bob Silver badge
Devil

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

I'm pretty sure the article said that the IP addresses weren't being logged... so "not persionally identifying" and "not personal data". which is fine with me. I might consider letting Ubu (and others) know stuff about what I install and where I install it, next time I install one of their distros.

I used to allow that, long ago, even for Micro-shaft, until it became obvious we were being snooped and tracked and whatnot by aggressive advertising firms that seek to target us with their marketing.

Perhaps this article is like the pendulum swinging back towards the middle again?

Pascal Monett Silver badge

Ok, I concede

Perhaps this has nothing to do with GDPR after all.

So I take it everyone is A-OK with opt-out ?

Well I'm not.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

I don't mind downvotes, but I'm honestly curious here -- why is this comment getting them? Can someone give me the counterargument?

I believe what I said is true because I have yet to see "anonymized" data collection that can't be de-anonymized whenever the entity holding the data wants to do it.

DropBear Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Ok, I concede

As long as you opt me in by default into anything, opting out is all you're going to see from me, even if your goddamn survey is going to magically save all Somalian children forever. ASKING is fine; the moment you PUT YOUR FOOT in the door and assume consent I'm reaching for the shotgun, pal.

Mark 110 Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"I don't mind downvotes, but I'm honestly curious here -- why is this comment getting them? Can someone give me the counterargument?

I believe what I said is true because I have yet to see "anonymized" data collection that can't be de-anonymized whenever the entity holding the data wants to do it."

They aren't collecting any PII data. Theres nothing they have they could de-anonymouse.

Anonymous Coward
Flame

the downvotes

I don't mind downvotes, but I'm honestly curious here -- why is this comment getting them? Can someone give me the counterargument?

Beats me. I'm not voting any of these comments; the reeeeeeeee is winning by a landslide.

"this exercise does comprehensively fingerprint the host machine"... 3-18

"The data collected is not PII"... 20-1

I'll submit another unpopular truth: It phones home even if you opt out. Can I get 50 downvotes for this?

While this is small potatoes compared to the very personal data collected by Facebook et al, what I'm looking for is ZERO TOLERANCE for tracking, profiling, and thoughtless analytics-driven decision making. Just a hunch: it actually WORSENS developers' decisions. There is no silver lining.

Alistair Silver badge
Pint

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

..... I need .. a beer.

No extraneous capitals.

I utterly agree.

Bob? Did your account get hacked? Or am I going to be jamming my capslock key down and ranting at people shortly?

AdamWill Silver badge

Re: Ok, I concede

"As long as you opt me in by default into anything, opting out is all you're going to see from me, even if your goddamn survey is going to magically save all Somalian children forever. ASKING is fine; the moment you PUT YOUR FOOT in the door and assume consent I'm reaching for the shotgun, pal."

I hate to break it to you - but you're a tiny minority. That's why Canonical did this. They need representative data.

Lots of internet commenters say the above, but most people don't actually behave that way, as anyone who's ever designed a system like this will tell you. If you make it opt-out, very few people opt out. If you make it opt-in, almost nobody opts in. That's human nature, apparently. That doesn't mean it's *right* to make things opt-out, of course. It can't answer that question. It's just a fact: opt-out always results in more participation than opt-in.

TVU Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"Nothing collected by Canonical is GDPR infringing. It's basic hardware metrics on a machine similar (but more techy) to the advertising blurb you see on Dells website giving ram and cpu specs etc. A machines info inst covered under GDPR or DPA"

^ Exactly this. Not only that, and unlike with Microsoft and Google, a clear binary choice is offered - to take part or not take part in data sharing.

Jez-UK

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

Read the bloody article!

They are not including the IP address.

Look this is actually well written and informative - why would you not actually read it?

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"They aren't collecting any PII data. Theres nothing they have they could de-anonymouse."

Sure there is -- if you have enough non-PII data on someone, then you can identify the person who generated it. And it's been shown repeatedly that "enough" such data is a shockingly small amount.

That said, I was responding to a comment that stated that there's no need to worry because the data is anonymized by pointing out that anonymizing data does not actually mean that much. Of course, that depends on what is meant by "anonymized". For instance, if the data is aggregated with many other people and the original collections are deleted, that's pretty safe, but requires trusting that the original data records are actually being deleted.

AdamWill Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

"if you have enough non-PII data on someone, then you can identify the person who generated it. And it's been shown repeatedly that "enough" such data is a shockingly small amount."

well, the definition of "identify" there is somewhat subtle, isn't it? You can *fingerprint* them, yes - in that if you see the same data profile again, you know it's the same person. But you don't actually know *who they are*, in the sense of 'this is Joe Bloggs of 41 Lark Terrace'. All you know is it's the same person (or, rather, the same computer) that sent the same profile before.

The bar to actually *figure out where that computer is and who owns it* is somewhat higher. Facebook and Google can do it, of course. I can't see how Canonical possibly could, from this data.

FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

>>PII is a very specific legal term from the US about HIPAA

Only in some contexts.

For example the Census Bureau has its own definition of what PII is (as do most other Federal Agencies that use your data to provide some kind of a service, the IRS has a different definition, as does FEMA), as do the States. And like usual with the Federal and State bureaucracies, there's no one definition to rule them all.

dajames Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

They are not including the IP address.

No, but they are sending the data to their servers over the internet, so the addressing information will be available from the received IP packet headers. It wouldn't be rocket science to associate the data with an IP address if they wanted.

I wouldn't say that an IP address should count as personally identifiable data, though, there are enough dynamic IPs and enough NATted shared IPs to make it difficult to associate an individual user with a particular hardware fingerprint.

What worries me more is that the data collected will enable them to discover which CPU types (for example) are only being used by a tiny fraction of the userbase, and prematurely discontinue support for those chips in order to make use of some new feature nobody has ever heard of in the very latest.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

if the data is aggregated with many other people and the original collections are deleted, that's pretty safe, but requires trusting that the original data records are actually being deleted.

Exactly. Trusting is naive. Developers tend to disable data/log deletion when something breaks, then forget to turn it back on again after fixing the problem.

Furthermore, there are always rogue managers/employees/volunteers who feel the rules don't apply to them. If the data is collected, there's a real chance someone will use it for nefarious purposes. Doxxing for dollars, maybe, or for noble social justice causes. "Don't worry, we're only targeting fascists!"

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: "opt-out was probably the best choice"

This is a very late reply as I was on vacation, but...

"the definition of "identify" there is somewhat subtle, isn't it?"

I mean "identify" as in "determine the identity of the user", not just "fingerprint the user". Researchers have repeatedly shown this is a trivial thing to do given just a small amount of non-PII data about someone. You don't have to be Facebook or Google to do it, you just have to be able to afford access to to the data, and that's only a question of money. A couple thousand dollars and the use of free data-mining software and you are home free.

msknight Silver badge

Opt-in is the only way to go...

...but then, I won't be using it anyway becuase, personally, I don't get on with Gnome 3.

Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

Re: Opt-in is the only way to go...

Me neither, so I did "apt-get install xububtu-desktop" first thing after completed installation. There is more to choose from.

oiseau
Stop

Re: Opt-in is the only way to go...

Hello:

...but then, I won't be using it anyway becuase, personally, I don't get on with Gnome 3 systemd.

There you go. Fixed it for you.

Cheers,

O.

Usermane

Re: Opt-in is the only way to go...

Thanks for the address.

Shadow Systems Silver badge

At MsKnight...

Ah come on, give it a try! Everyone knows there's no place like gnome! =-D

I'll get my coat, it's the one with the pockets full of attrocious puns...

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Opt-in is the only way to go...

Agree. Opting in would put Canonical in the position of having to invite the user to join and provide the user with convincing statements to make that happen in a number of cases sufficient for their purposes.

However and beyond that, Canonical and Ubuntu are private organizations. As such, there is no guarantee other than their word that what they are saying is true (many other such institutions have either shaved the truth or outright lied about it), and even if they are being honest and sincere, they can change their minds tomorrow (as many other such institutions have done in the past to the detriment of user privacy).

That is, it is not paranoia if there is 1) a broad and long history in the industry of such promises broken and 2) endless efforts to bury personal tracking policies under heaps of legalese jargon and flowery PR statements about their commitments to "do no evil" etc. There really are a lot of "bad guys" - re personal tracking - out there.

Alistair Silver badge
Windows

Re: Opt-in is the only way to go...

@ MsKnight:

I have several gnomes. None of them are model 3's, Warrior, warlock, priest, DK. and oddly a hordie elf, but only to reserve the name Noetic.

Czrly

Thin End of the Wedge, though.

Bravo for their implementation and transparency but, frankly, I'm still going to opt all the hell out because I perceive this to be the thin end of the wedge. Is Canonical going to pop up a notification, asking for my consent, every single time that data file's schema changes because someone decided it would be cool to add an extra field? Do I have the time to vet all those changes, even should they do that?

Blockchain commentard

" is the need for click-baity headlines in this day and age of advertising-driven, small publishers."

Really. Do you know of any such websites El Reg?

m0rt Silver badge

Yeah. But we read El Reg regularly. We don't need no stinking headlines.

But we do apreciate them!

Dan 55 Silver badge

Perhaps, if GNOME started gathering some basic data on a larger scale about how people use GNOME the project would make different decisions.

Doubt it, if you take the other example (Firefox) it turned into competition between UXers to see how they could out-stupid each other, using metrics to justify their decisions where they could and ignoring them where they couldn't.

This post has been deleted by a moderator

This post has been deleted by its author

m0rt Silver badge

PIcky picky picky

"Canonical makes an easy target for this sort of thing because it's the closest thing Linux has to a household name."

I would have said Android.

Avatar of They

Re: PIcky picky picky

Problem there is Android has Google associated with it and that brings its own "data slurping" headlines making even more people paranoid.

It also isn't a very good linux distro because it has that java layer. So is rather stand alone from the other distros.

Teiwaz Silver badge

Re: PIcky picky picky

"Canonical makes an easy target for this sort of thing because it's the closest thing Linux has to a household name."

I would have said Android.

There you have it, at least one 'housewife' 'can't tell the difference between whizzo butter and a dead crab'

Android isn't a good household name for 'Linux as it throws the Gnu out with the bathwater and replaces it with private googlies.

m0rt Silver badge

Re: PIcky picky picky

Wasn't talking about the good linx distro side. I was just referring to the household name bit.

If I went to my family and said Android, they would go 'What about it?'

If I went to my family and said 'Ubuntu', they would go 'You having a stroke or is that a new cordial?'

If I went to my family and said 'Canonical', they would go 'is that a small camera?'

I love my family. I hate the fact I am the only one who works in IT, in my family.

Teiwaz Silver badge

Re: PIcky picky picky

Wasn't talking about the good linx distro side. I was just referring to the household name bit.

You say kleenex, everyone knows it's a tissue, you say hoover, everyone knows its a vacuum cleaner.

You say android, it's a phone to most, unaware as many are that it runs on the linux kernel.

Linux may be all around, but like a popular brand of sewer plumbing it doesn't get much upfront advertising, it's not a popular enough household product to have a household name.

ghp

Re: PIcky picky picky

"I love my family. I hate the fact I am the only one who works in IT, in my family."

When you do have someone, the rest of the table hasn't got a clue what the discussion is about. I assure you, you don't feel very comfortable, if you have a conscience.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: PIcky picky picky

So ask your wife & daughter to not talk shop at the table.

JohnFen Silver badge

Re: PIcky picky picky

"So is rather stand alone from the other distros."

As is Ubuntu.

Usermane

Nice but pass

Gnome could be nice but for me is more hard for making changes in the bar. I use 2 keyboard layouts and is messy (at least for me) with some desktops as Gnome. LXDE, Lubuntu, Lubuntu Xubuntu or Enlightenment are most easy for changes. Maybe are others like that and at the same time light.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Re: Nice but pass

Sorted:

A far higher proportion of Ubuntu users know it is Liunux than the likely proportion of Android users know that it is Linux.

sabroni Silver badge
WTF?

re: I did not anticipate the firestorm ... would generate within the Linux community.

Really? It's exactly the firestorm I would expect from the Linux community. Never read comments on here before?

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