Canonical explain the new Ubuntu census package
Canonical developer Rick Spencer has blogged about the recent discovery of a canonical-census package in the Ubuntu repositories. Although initial speculation suggested Canonical was tracking the users of pre-installed systems with Ubuntu, Spencer points out that the idea of the census package is actually to count the number of OEM installed Ubuntu system without identifying the users of those systems.
Earlier plans which were considered involved OEMs using unique identifiers but this plan was too close to tracking for Canonical said Spencer. The developers came up with a plan which would send just the model name of the computer and a count of the number of times the system had updated the census system. Each time a system with canonical-census pings the server with this information, a counter is incremented for that particular combination of model name and number of updates. This process allows the data to be anonymous and yet gives Canonical and their OEM customers a count of number of machines activated and estimates for the number of systems online in any one day.
The canonical-census package was created for a specific, but undisclosed, OEM customer of Canonical. It will be up to that customer as to whether or not they reveal the results of the data collection, says Spencer, and future plans for canonical-census beyond this one OEM have not been made, but if the scheme works well, it could be considered as an option at the next Ubuntu Developer Summit to provide data to the community.