Counting number of users while preserving privacy

Eric Moore emoore at fastmail.fm
Wed Jan 16 05:31:07 UTC 2019


https://lwn.net/SubscriberLink/776327/e0cf49b9b9976c5a/ (some useful 
background/history of the proposal)

https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Changes/DNF_Better_Counting (the current 
proposal)

Fedora appears to have spent a lot of thought about a new way to count 
the number of their installations that does a much better job of 
preserving privacy, and makes it hard for the data it returns to be 
misused. It would avoid using a unique id or the ip address. It includes 
a VARIANT_ID (an example would be "Workstation Edition"). In our case 
the "count me" variable might have a very low cap such as 6 (implying 6 
weeks or older) to minimize the risk of uniqueness.

Could something similar be done in Thunderbird when it requests data 
from one of the Thunderbird servers?

We don't appear to have reliable data on the number of Thunderbird 
users, did they explicitly install any add-ons (boolean, ignore whats 
bundled with Thunderbird), and what version they are using. Something 
modeled on Fedora's approach might be a useful way to get that while 
avoiding most users (such as myself) instinctive wariness of telemetry 
such as the toolkit telemetry. If we do this I suggest the community 
manager explain beforehand (preferably before the first beta that 
supports it) how it works, how it deals with privacy issues and how to 
opt-out, in a post on Planet Thunderbird.



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