Friday, July 14, 2023

Fedora Telemetry Proposal

corbet (via Hacker News):

The Fedora project is considering a Fedora 40 change proposal to add limited, opt-out telemetry to the workstation edition. The proposal is detailed; it is clear that the developers involved understand that this will be a hard sell in that community.

We believe an open source community can ethically collect limited aggregate data on how its software is used without involving big data companies or building creepy tracking profiles that are not in the best interests of users. Users will have the option to disable data upload before any data is sent for the first time. Our service will be operated by Fedora on Fedora infrastructure, and will not depend on Google Analytics or any other controversial third-party services. And in contrast to proprietary software operating systems, you can redirect the data collection to your own private metrics server instead of Fedora’s to see precisely what data is being collected from you, because the server components are open source too.


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I might have taken a harder line on this when I was younger, but now I'm a PO on a software project and usage analytics are absolutely critical to making it better. There is no use case for us to sell or misuse the information in any way.

I do wish it was opt-in, but I don't see it as a big deal.

But that's the trouble, isn't it? It is opt-out, and intentionally so. Even if I were to put aside the problems of data collection generally (IP address is PII, slants towards the nontechnical audience and/or shapes outcomes based on biased interpretations of the data selected and collected, societal and civic harms of data collection without collective individual and regulatory oversight, etc), and I strongly suggest that these are not easily overlooked, the fact is that I simply trust opt-in data collection and participation more, because it's simply indefensible to collect data without explicit consent. That's why I'm happy to run Debian popcon and MacPorts mpstats, but I fiercely resist this and other similar telemetry. It's a bloody great scandal, is what it is. But the industry has allowed it to happen, on the altar of "UX", and in essentially treating its customers as datapoints fit for exploitation rather than people with technology needs. Rant rant rant, etc.

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