In Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, System Settings > Privacy > Files, 'Record Activity' is ON by default.

What does this mean exactly?

Which activities are being recorded?

Where can I find the recorded data?

  • How does one permanently turn off any and all system "recording" of used apps, directories, or files in Ubuntu 12.10... I specifically DO NOT want a list of my recently used files showing up in my menu for anyone who may be looking over my shoulder to see. I have turned off everything in the privacy app and I still see that my system is recording recently used files... what is the point of having a "privacy" app that doesn't really offer you any privacy by NOT turning off the recently used file list?!?!?!? As far as I'm concerned, this is a MAJOR SECURITY FAIL on the part of the Ubuntu team. A
    – Jason
    Mar 1, 2013 at 3:36
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5 Answers 5


What does this mean exactly?

Your activities are recorded in order to better understand how you are using your system. Using this extensive knowledge, the performance of the system can be improved considerably.

For example, knowing which application you launcher when you start your computer would help the system to pre-launch the application in the future, etc.

Which activities are being recorded?

Activities like viewing and editing audio, video, documents, notes, images, conversations in Empathy, emails, music played are all recorded. Not just the activity itself, but how you carried out the activity are also recorded.

In the case of listening to music, how you played the song will be recorded including whether you launched it from Unity dash, Nautilus or from Rhythmbox, etc.

I would believe the Zeitgeist team is working on adding more plugins for recording more activities like the commands used in terminal, websites visited, etc.

Where can I find the recorded data?

Your activity data is stored in ~/.local/share/zeitgeist.

You can use gnome-activity-journal Install gnome-activity-journal to view the recorded activities in a human friendly way.

We have an extensive tag wiki about that explains how Zeitgeist works and how it is useful on the whole among other things.


What does this mean exactly?

It means that some of your relevant information is being recorded which can be used to improve the user experience. Please note that none of these info is being sent to any website. It resides solely on your computer

Which activities are being recorded?

In default install of Ubuntu, only files which you open and application launches are recorded. This log is being used by Unity Dash to find files.

So this means if you open a video file, open an audio file or document, it is recorded.

Tomboy or gnote notes are not recorded. You need to install plugin explicitly for that

Rhythmbox comes installed with a plugin to log the activity, but it is NOT activated by default. Check Edit > Plugins

Banshee also has plugin to record your activity, but the stock install of banshee does not install the plugin.

TL;DR; Only file activity and application launch event is logged as of now in Ubuntu 12.04

Where can I find the recorded data?

The data is being stored at ~/.local/share/zeitgeist/activity.sqlite

It's an SQLite database. It is recommended not to open it directly and should accessed only via API.


Unity uses information logged by zeitgeist-datahub to improve performance.

There is a nice review, with screenshots, here

I do not think there is a single location where your activity is logged.

Content from above link:

Ubuntu 12.04's new dedicated Privacy menu has a lot going for it. Since the new Unity UI records your recent activity for better working of functionalities like Unity Dash, control of what Ubuntu is allowed to record and store becomes paramount.


As you can see, Record Activity option is set to ON by default. Also, there are options for deleting every bit of information that has been stored overtime.

You can specify the kind of files whose activities you don't want to be recorded. Optionally, you can deselect specific folders from the watch-list.


Same can be done for applications as well. You are allowed to manually select specific applications that you don't want to be recorded. As you can see, selecting applications has also been made easy since it comes sorted based on their daily activity by default.


And then there is this diagnostics tool which when activated, lets your Ubuntu send anonymous information such as error reports to Canonical automatically. Also, this option is disabled by default.


  • I like performance, but I don't want anything to be stored outside of my home. I don't know what to do. Jun 5, 2012 at 22:30
  • When I open the appĺication list (3rd image), all of them are in light gray, like there isn't any activity recorded. Jun 5, 2012 at 22:33
  • I have not looked at this new feature. I highly doubt anything is stored outside of home. Personally I use an encrypted home so I have not looked at these settings.
    – Panther
    Jun 5, 2012 at 23:31
  • Yes, me too. I just wanted to be sure Jun 5, 2012 at 23:34
  • 1
    @bodhi.zazen Unity does not log those Info. Unity uses those logged info. A daemon called zeitgeist-datahub is a passive listener which logs the info Jun 6, 2012 at 15:16

There are 2 kinds of "tracking" questions in this thread. I guess, what zeitgeist records is clear by the other answers.

"Recent documents" etc is not stored by this daemon. It is stored in 2 files in your homedir: ./.recently-used ./.local/share/recently-used.xbel

I, personally, don't like this either (it clutters search results), so, the following commands "disable" this. Warning; it does not actually "disable" anything, it will just prevent applications from writing to these files.

cd ~
> ./.recently-used
> ./.local/share/recently-used.xbel
sudo chattr +i ./.recently-used
sudo chattr +i ./.local/share/recently-used.xbel

Some applications may report errors or warnings when not being able to write to this file, especially when launched from a terminal ("operation not permitted")


What does this mean exactly?

Not a whole lot. Even if you change this option to OFF, Ubuntu will still show your activity in Places -> Recent Documents, so obviously, it will still keep a history of your activity. (I verified this report myself)

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