How to Stop Ubuntu From Collecting Data About Your PC

Ubuntu 18.04 collects data about your PC’s hardware and software, which packages you have installed, and application crash reports, sending them all to Ubuntu’s servers. You can opt out of this data collection—but you have to do it in three separate places.

How to Opt Out of System Information Reports

After you install Ubuntu 18.04 and boot up, you’ll see the “Welcome to Ubuntu” window. Click through it and you can choose whether or not to submit data about your PC to Ubuntu on the “Help improve Ubuntu” screen.

By default, the “Yes, send system info to Canonical” option is selected. Select the “No, don’t send system info” option to opt out of this data collection.

You can click “Show the First Report” if you’re curious what data is sent. The data includes information about your PC’s hardware, including the manufacturer, BIOS version, and the model of your CPU. It also includes information about your software, such as the version of Ubuntu you installed, your chosen desktop environment, whether you’re using the Xorg or Wayland display server, and the options you chose while installing Ubuntu. Other information, such as your time zone, information about your partitions, and your display’s resolution is also sent.

According to Canonical’s Will Cooke, this data is designed to help Ubuntu learn how many users it has, what features they use, and what hardware they have, allowing Ubuntu’s developers to focus on what’s important. Ubuntu doesn’t keep the IP address associated with each report and has no way of tying it back to an individual PC.

You can find this report at /home/NAME/.cache/ubuntu-report/ubuntu.18.04 on your PC.

The data collection is performed by the ubuntu-report command. According to its documentation, information about your PC is sent only once per Ubuntu version. So, if you’ve already agreed to report information about your PC, your data has already been sent.

If you want to opt out, you can do so by forcing the ubuntu-report command to send a new report with an opt-out message instead of your PC’s data. If you already opted out after installing Ubuntu, there’s no need for this—but this will allow you to opt out if you already sent your data to Ubuntu’s servers.

To get started, launch a Terminal window. You can do this by clicking the “Activities” link at the top left corner of your screen, typing “Terminal” into the search box, and then pressing Enter or clicking the “Terminal” icon.

In the Terminal window, type the following command, and then press Enter:

ubuntu-report -f send no

Ubuntu sends a simple report saying that your PC has opted out. That’s all the information it contains and, as the data is publicly available, anyone will be able to see how many Ubuntu users have opted out. This gives everyone a good idea of how many total Ubuntu users there are.

How to Opt Out of the Package Popularity Contest

The “popularity-contest” or “popcon” tool also is installed by default on Ubuntu 18.04. This tool reports to Ubuntu which software packages you have installed on your system. Ubuntu then knows exactly how popular each package is, and they can use this information to focus their development efforts.

If you’d like to opt out of the popularity contest, launch a Terminal window and run the following command:

sudo apt remove popularity-contest

You’ll have to enter your user account’s password and then type “y” to continue. This alsos remove the ubuntu-standard package, but that is simply a “metapackage” that exists to pull in the default software (like popularity-contest) when you install Ubuntu. It can be safely removed.

How to Opt Out of Automatic Bug Reports

Ubuntu has long had an “Apport” tool that automatically notices application crashes and generates crash reports. In Ubuntu 18.04, Apport is configured to automatically upload bug reports. These bug reports are anonymized and personal data is removed from them. They can be used by developers to understand what’s crashing and why.

If you’d like to opt out of this, click the system status icons at the top right corner of the Ubuntu desktop and click the “Settings” icon in the popup. Select “Privacy” in the Settings window that appears, and then click the “Problem Reporting” entry.

Set “Automatic Problem Reporting” to “Off” and close the window. Apport will still notice crashes and generate crash reports, but it will ask for permission before sending them.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Twitter.