Today a new package has been added to the repository of Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat. This package, called canonical-census, is meant to for Canonical to track the OEM Ubuntu installations around the world.
This is what the source code description says:
Send an “I am alive” ping to Canonical. This is used for surveying how many original OEM installs are still existing on real machines. 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.
Right now though, the package will not track everyone who install Ubuntu. It is only meant to track those who bought their system with Ubuntu pre-installed.
And if you are worrying about privacy and stuffs, the package will not not send any data which can identify the user (as the description above says). It is only meant to ping canonical just to let them know that the default Ubuntu installation is still alive. And if you are the paranoid type and do not want it to ping as well, you can just remove the package. I for one would not mind this package even in a non-OEM systems if it will help Ubuntu become better.
Unlike paid operating systems like Windows, there are currently no way for Canonical to track the Ubuntu installations. Since they encourage users to copy and share the Ubuntu CDs, it is even harder to track them. The introduction of this package looks like a first step by Canonical to understand the usage of Ubuntu properly.
If you are interested and want to take a peek at the source code, here is the link.
Are you concerned with the idea of Canonical tracking the Ubuntu installations?