[theme-reviewers] tracking code in themes

Trent Lapinski trent at cyberchimps.com
Thu Mar 8 20:48:47 UTC 2012

Replies below.

On Mar 8, 2012, at 11:53 AM, Chip Bennett wrote:

> On Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 1:38 PM, Trent Lapinski <trent at cyberchimps.com> wrote:
> Woh.
> It is truly a shame you guys have already made the decision to restrict PressTrends use from WordPress.org without any discussion, or reason.
> Nothing is being restricted. You are free to use PressTrends in your WPORG repository-hosted Theme. We're merely stipulating that you have to *disclose* to end users that the Theme is using this service, and that you have to allow end users to *opt-in* to use of this service. 

I am not at all opposed to documenting this further, or allowing users to turn this feature on or off, but the fact we're being told we can't have it on by default is a restriction.

> There is absolutely nothing wrong with knowing how many people are using your themes, and what version numbers they are using. In fact, I wish WordPress.org itself provided this kind of data publicly.
> I refer you to Free Software philosophy [emphasis added]:
> The freedom to run the program means the freedom for any kind of person or organization to use it on any kind of computer system, for any kind of overall job and purpose, without being required to communicate about it with the developer or any other specific entity. In this freedom, it is the user's purpose that matters, not the developer's purpose; you as a user are free to run the program for your purposes, and if you distribute it to someone else, she is then free to run it for her purposes, but you are not entitled to impose your purposes on her.
> Simply put: you, as a developer, do not have the right to this information without the user's informed consent. 

I don't even want to touch this with a 10-foot pole. 

We are not imposing anything on users.

Considering we have a credit link and link back to our docs in our themes we get all kinds of analytic data when people visit our website. We know what device they are using, what OS, what city they live in, who their ISP is, etc.

Is it imposing our will upon them because we get this data when they visit our website? It is imposing our purposes to use Google analytics?

Facebook collects far more analytics data on users, every iOS and Android user is constantly sending analytic back to Apple and Google, and even Automattic has their own analytic software built into every WordPress.com account, and Jetpack. 

Who's purposes does this serve? The end users? http://en.wordpress.com/stats/

Analytic data is analytic data. There are no names, no e-mails, and no user information that isn't already publicly available. Just because that data is now aggregated in a meaningful way doesn't make it dangerous. These are publicly accessible websites, anyone can go count the posts and comments and view the urls.

To me there is pretty much no difference between Google analytics and PressTrends. Honestly, if I could make our PressTrends account data public I would. I have no problem with disclosure because it doesn't disclose any personal information, or limit the functionality of our software. In fact, all it does is gives us data to make our software better.

> There is absolutely no private information that is garnered from PressTrends.
> From the PressTrends privacy policy:
> Themes containing the PressTrends tracking code track the following information only: number of posts published, number of comments, blog name, theme version, site url, and the number of plugins.
> Those data, in that combination, ARE potentially personally identifiable. 

Not anymore identifiable as the referral data we get from Jetpack and site stats and Google analytics. 

Honestly, I don't even care about the posts / comments / plugin numbers, we mainly like the ability to see what version of our themes are users are using. As I said, I wish this was a feature of WordPress.org itself, its useful data for everyone involved that does not violate anyone's privacy.

> This isn't a privacy issue, and the metrics it does gather are extremely valuable to theme developers.
> Whether such data constitute a privacy concern is a matter for each end user to decide for him/herself.
> The only thing PressTrends "tracks" is theme activations of what theme version number of the theme is being activated, the average number of posts, comments, and plugins, and abandonment rates telling you if people have stopped using the theme after 30-days.
> I have absolutely no problem disclosing this better in our documentation, but to make it an option that has to be enabled makes the data it does gather pretty much useless.
> Useless to whom: the end user, or the developer? If the service is useful to the end user, then make the usefulness argument to end users. If the service is *not* useful to the end user, then it absolutely should not be enabled by default.

By this same logic nothing should ever be enabled by default then. 

The data is useful to the end user because it gives us a glimpse at how the end user is using our software so that we can make it better without violating their privacy.

> It enables us to see if our users are upgrading their themes to the latest versions, and gives us insight into those who stop using our themes.
> Having to turn PressTrends off by default and then asking users to enable it as a theme option makes the data useless because you will only get activation numbers from people who enable the theme option which means they are already using and configuring your theme.
> If this is truly a requirement, this should be in the theme review guidelines.
> Certainly. I will copy the similar policy wording from the Plugin repository (see #7: No "phoning home"), and find the appropriate place for it in the Theme guidelines. 
> Thanks,
> Chip
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