Firefox and Google Analytics

Recently there was a stink about Firefox using Google Analytics in a limited way with their Get Add-ons page. The information was used for internal telemetry. Apparently the contract for using Google Analytics requires the Google folks to anonymize and not use the data. While I trust Google employees and lawyers as far as I can spit into a head wind, I am willing to chalk this off as simple human error. Regardless, this was a poor design decision from developers who claim to support privacy. If for no reason other than users not being fully informed.

The privacy problem was resolved. Users who enable the Do Not Track feature in Firefox will not have information sent to Google Analytics.

This is a classic example of jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

The Do Not Track feature adds additional header information that web servers are supposed to interpret as a desire not to collect data about users.

Uh-huh, and ocean front property sells well in Nevada.

This is the realm of letting sleeping dogs lie. Why would anyone want to explicitly notify web site owners that they do not want to be tracked? Nothing obligates web site owners from honoring this header option. Cynically, adding that information to the header seems to be begging to be tracked.

When in Rome do as the Romans do. In other words, don’t make an effort to be noticeable. Which is exactly what the Do Not Track header option does not do.

Some people might argue that telemetry and analytic data are important to improve software quality. Perhaps but unlikely. Just set developer egos aside and produce what people want. Forget about tracking people — for any reason.

Posted: Category: Commentary, Usability Tagged: Firefox, General

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