Counting number of users while preserving privacy

Ryan Sipes ryan at thunderbird.net
Fri Jan 18 03:57:24 UTC 2019


Well, I think that well-described anonymized collection with an opt-out
would make a majority of our users happy. Obviously we have to ensure
that our userbase understands we are not collecting any personal data.

I would be happy to explain this and ensure that folks understand
precisely what we are doing, and the insights gained would be well worth it.

Ryan Sipes
Community Manager
Thunderbird

On 1/17/19 4:54 AM, Ben Bucksch wrote:
>
> Yes. I've made such proposals, 7 years ago:
> https://wiki.mozilla.org/MetricsDataPing#Anonymous_alternative
>
> (They were rejected by the Mozilla Metrics team, despite fulfilling
> all their stated requirements.)
>
>
> Eric Moore wrote on 16.01.19 06:31:
>> 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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>>
>
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