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Canonical starts tracking Ubuntu installations via Canonical Census package

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

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If you open Synaptic Package Manager in your Ubuntu installation (via System > Administration > Synaptic Package Manager), and look for “canonical-census”, you may find a new spy or tracking software package. Uploaded very recently to Lucid’s 10.04 repositories, it will be also present in Maverick’s 10.10.

According to the description in Synaptic:

send “I am alive” ping to Canonical

This package installs a daily cron job for surveying how many original OEM installs are running in the world. Note that this does not send any user specific data; it only transmits the operating system version (/var/lib/ubuntu_dist_channel), the machine product name, and a counter how many pings were sent.

The software is for tracking Ubuntu installations by sending an “I am alive” ping to Canonical on a daily basis. If you install  the canonical-census package, the program is added to the daily Cron jobs and executed. Using HTTP, it will report each day to Canonical the number of times your system previously contacted Canonical. The counter is stored locally in your computer. Since it runs on a daily basis, it’s implicitly indicating how many days the Ubuntu installation has been active. It also transmits the Ubuntu distributor channel, the product name read from the system’s DMI information, and the Ubuntu version installed.

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Your movement is over 93% predictable

February 25, 2010 2 comments

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Little effort for tracking, you are predictable
We think ourselves as being dynamic, unpredictable individuals, but that’s an ilusion. In a study published in last week’s Science, researchers looked at customer location data culled from cellular service providers. By looking at how customers moved around, the authors of the study found that it may be possible to predict human movement patterns and location up to 93 percent of the time.

It’s not currently possible to know exactly where everyone is all the time, but cell phones can provide a pretty good approximation. Cell phone companies store records of customers’ locations based on when the customers’ phones connect to towers, including logins and keepalives for the connection. Taking this data and paring it down to users might allow them to see if they could develop any measure of how predictable human movements and locations are.
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