What many people don’t realize, however, is that our operating systems typically record things about us, too, such as the activities we perform on them and the files we use. That can be helpful, enabling things like quick access to that document we were just working on, for example; it can also be a problem, since anyone who gains access to your computer can potentially see all that stuff as well.
We’re all accustomed by now to “Do Not Track” features in our Web browsers, for example, but new technology in Canonical’s forthcoming Ubuntu Linux 12.04 will reportedly put similar privacy controls in users’ hands at the level of the operating system itself.
You can delete your activity log
Specifically, Ubuntu Linux 12.04 “Precise Pangolin”–now in beta–will introduce new, OS-wide privacy settings that give users a way to delete portions of their activity log, disable logging altogether for certain files and applications, or completely disable activity logging across the board, according to a Thursday blog post from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).
The result, notes EFF Web Developer Micah Lee, is that “you can now delete your GNOME activity log from the past hour, day, week, a specific date range, or everything stored on your computer.”
Users can also choose to disable Ubuntu’s logging of activity on their Pidgin chat software, say, though they’d also have to disable Pidgin’s own logging to eliminate all their chat history, Lee writes.
To disable all activity logging on the computer, users can simply turn off the “Record Activity” switch.
A worthy objective
To enable easy access to this new level of control, the Ubuntu team has integrated the Activity Log Manager user interface for the software’s Zeitgeist event logger into Ubuntu’s System Settings application, reports The H.
It sounds like the EFF approves of the effort.
“Retrofitting operating systems to support privacy against local attackers is a worthy objective, but not an easy one,” Lee concludes. “We hope that Ubuntu and other projects will be in this for the long haul.”