Counting number of users while preserving privacy

Mark Banner mbanner at
Fri Jan 18 10:51:14 UTC 2019

On 16/01/2019 05:31, Eric Moore wrote:
> 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.

How do you define "reliable" here? Even Firefox's data is probably not 
considered fully accurate. For one thing, we know a lot of enterprise 
users disable any type of contacting back to our servers (they have 
proxies, or manage their own updates for instance). Another thing that 
used to be an issue (I'm not sure if it still is), is that not everyone 
signs on every day, not every ping would be returned straight away - 
that makes "counting" hard. I know there's been a lot of work done on 
this over the last couple of years, and talking to the Firefox metrics 
team might give some useful insights.

> 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.

As a coder, when I get a "wariness" about something, I go and dig into 
it and work out what I don't like, discussing with relevant people as 
necessary. If I couldn't be comfortable with it, then I might suggest a 
different way of doing it, or see if there's a compromise both sides 
could be comfortable with.

I'd suggest doing that here - before spending time designing, 
implementing and refining something new, go and investigate the existing 
telemetry system, the privacy policies, the data privacy review 
mechanisms. Not only what you don't like about it, but try and 
understand why it is that we're collecting the bits you're not 
comfortable with. Then decide what it is that you're still not happy about.

Take that and discuss it and the reasons with the metrics people - that 
have been thinking about and working on it for the last few years. If it 
is really something you can't agree with, then fair enough, do something 
different - the added bonus here is that you'll already have some idea 
about what you really want to be able to do.


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