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Re: Firefox splash page tracker

Dimitris Glezos wrote:
Karsten, Max, et al,

I believe the addition of such a tracker (solution 1) will have a bad impact on
the image of the Fedora Project on our users, which will not be worth the
information gained from this addition.

I'll try to elaborate my thoughts.


Such trackers were always faced with bad criticism. This takes place with every
equipment used for tracking: emails containing notices like "the sender asked to
be notified when you read this email", cameras in the streets and shops,
security checks in airports, digital IDs, RFIDs, even Credit Cards. People even
feel irritated with phrases like "this conversation will be recorded for
training purposes". They usually don't behave the same, even if they were
guaranteed that the data will be trashed right after the event.

I admit to be quite a bit irritated when I get messages from webpages saying
"Hi. You are 84.9.192, you are using Firefox 1.5 on Linux" even though *I know*
that my browser does expose this information. I know this is silly, but even
though I know it happens, I don't like hearing it. Notifying me that it does
happen makes things worse.

BTW this is not a matter of conspiracy theories: It's just that I like websites
that don't do this or remind me that it is done more than those which do.

The user's desktop is like his digital home. It's private, it's exposed to
dangers from intruders, the user is bound to it in a very special way.
Applications that somehow used the Internet for a reason the company saw fit
were always badly criticized from the users. I believe that's why, even today,
99% of the proprietary applications don't use the connection to the Internet to
check if the software is cracked.

Other solutions

So, the question is: Is it worth it?

Well, my opinion is that it is *not* and the extra information will not be much
more worth than, say, the visits to our website.

But let's say it does.

One approach would be to reduce the fuss about it: Add a 1x1 image somewhere on
the page that comes from the net (solution 2). User won't be told so he won't
have the chance to think our motivations are bad (which of course aren't). This
"secret" approach will also have a bad impact on our image (this time in the
media shouting about user privacy). But: a) some people will think "big deal,
it's just a pixel, the guys want to count their users" and b) at least 95% of
the users won't find out about it, which probably is not bad because we are not
doing anything wrong.

Another line of thinking (better) is that we can count users in other ways, less
intrusive, just like other projects do. And, in addition, some of these ways
provide more information than the tracker one.

For example, we could ask the user to send us a ping during the first boot of
the system (solution 3). Package `firstboot` could say something like:

If we need to count more than systems that re/installed FC6, and, say, count
unique users, we could have that message on top of the splash page (solution 4).
Whatever the users clicks, a cookie stores her choice in a cookie so that she
won't be asked again.

Finally, the most useful and non-intrusive approach (solution 5) is to ask the
user fill a short questionnaire. More helpful data than any other approach, less
suspicious intentions.

Summary of solutions

 1. Original suggestion: image on splash page with description.
 2. Tiny invisible image with no description.
 3. Ping from Firstboot.
 4. Ping from splash (once).
 5. Questionnaire from firstboot or splash.


None of the solutions give has any accuracy on the number of users using Fedora.
Analytically the solutions:

 1,2: The image could be put in any webpage and the users with dynamic IPs would
be counted as multiple users.

 3: Doesn't count upgrades to FC6 and also gives option of just clicking "next".

 4: Suffers like 1: multiple locations could point there and people who clear
their cookies often will see the message over and over.

 5: Like 4, but a bit better because the bogus calls will be fewer.


To summarize a very long email (sorry): I believe users would like it better if
we did not use their desktop to track anything or ask them any such question. I
wasn't convinced that the value it will give the project will be worth the cost
of the image of the project.

I'm sorry but I feel this is a very delicate matter that touches sensitive
chords and fragile nerves. Actions like these sometimes make people feel that
their privacy was disturbed or their personal normal lives intruded for
third-party benefits.

If I had to choose from the solutions, I would go for the most "human"/less
intrusive one, #5 (the questionnaire).

Sorry again for the length of the email.


Note to all we do not even have a "final" Privacy Policy [1} on the Wiki yet.

[1] http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal/PrivacyPolicy

Robert 'Bob' Jensen *        * http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/BobJensen
gpg fingerprint:     F9F4 7243 4243 0043 2C45 97AF E8A4 C3AE 42EB 0BC6
Fedora Docs Projects  FDSCo  http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/DocsProject

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