F40 Change Request: Privacy-preserving Telemetry for Fedora Workstation (System-Wide)

To whom it may concern at this point,

While i may have signed up here to comment, this is a combined letter from several people, written and approved by almost all of the Fedora Telegram Admins of the Fedora Telegram chat.

(In support: Angelo, Arun, Igor, Michał, Siddharth and Wolfshappen)

If this proposal passes without being opt-in (that is, either off by default or by explicit yes/no choice, we are sick of it being assumed we don’t know what it means), many of us (Angelo, Arun, Igor and Wolfshappen) will leave our positions in the ~1100 verified members strong group and move to greener distros that represent user choice.

To clarify for sure: Opt out meaning any kind of hidden switch or any default enabled switch that enables tracking when merely clicking “next” on the initial setup, unlike debian where it is default “No” for popcon.

Fedora has been an awesome, basically unmatched distro dear to our Hearts and has gathered a lot of goodwill with us and our Members, Families and Friends - which we helped through the occasional Bugs and Issues and have helped them report these upstream where possible, sometimes taking it upon ourselves too. This accumulated goodwill has shown to be strong, as even during the RHEL source drama many members stayed and were happy to continue to recommend Fedora for its perceived self-governance. We always thought we were valued members, but the current proposal and communication around it feels like a slap in the face.

The absolute contempt with which Member suggestions have been treated and how Members have been treated like they’re simply unable to understand:

“But other software” - goalpost moving, this is for Fedora to decide on its own.

“its so easy to turn off” - not the point, it should be opt in as suggested the entire time.

“Well make your own spin that doesnt track” - was it deliberately posted to attempt to get complaints out of the way without acting on them?

This was noted by other users too.

How they have been told to “just stop” suggesting the one viable solution in a “hear no evil” matter with terrible wording “See: (our freely and consentfully given) data is ‘garbage and useless’, search: ‘Representative’”

How all user concerns for GDPR, DSGVO and co. have been blown into the wind because a non-public request has been sent to a lawyer for review and was okayed by them

- and how seemingly insistent the whole proposal and communication is on treating users like cattle to be forced or misled into accepting “what’s good for them” is a standard no open source project should sink to.

Those who do not learn from others’ (Audacity) Mistakes are doomed to repeat them.

The point that this has passed initial consideration in the team and was approved internally for submission to a lawyer, and finally proposed with software and considerations that seem to have been done in the worst possible iteration is a stark contrast to the values Fedora used to stand for and what it used to be. If there was a “silent majority” that would donate app usage data that suddenly becomes a minority when presented with an active informed choice and a clear explanation - how can you honestly treat this as user consent rather than a Zuckerbergian strategy to get your tracking through at any cost with as many dark patterns as possible?

And the consistent Pointers to "but Ubuntu" are almost comical. If asked for how to do something “the opposite of what Canonical does” is usually the correct choice, technically and morally. As even the change request points out with its unaware and ironical reference to the amazon-in-searchbar fiasco.

That the first software to come to mind for “App usage data - which apps can be dropped from the Repos for Maintenance?” for the Team lead is the default browser fedora ships and the last user-respecting fully free independent Browser, Firefox, just adds to the sad Irony of the whole situation. Mind you, app usage data for which Microsoft is still getting called out for by privacy activists around the world, together with its hundreds of other, undefined and unknown, tracking data points.

The suggested tracking Tool is far too powerful and in its past even had capabilities for tracking links posted to social Networks (if registered by the OS component side of course). And the team has laid out no clear restrictions other than “Trust us” to introduce further tracking measures, with no scope of limits, storage time and access so far - and no concept of asking users anew for further, additional tracking points when introduced (in stark contrast to, for example, syncthing). All while trying to even upstream it to gnome directly.

If tracking by opt-out is a must then cancel this Proposal and draft a public excuse how this could have even been proposed after going through this entire process. If you can settle on it being opt-in, which we polled our users on it turns out many would be perfectly fine with that! The results, at the time of writing, are:

but you can also clearly see that this mere proposal and the communication around it from the RHEL team has already eroded the trust of your users, supporters and advocates.

But you can save this proposal and implement it very easily by making it opt-in (must click to enable, defaults to no - or explicit choice), ideally with a detail slider and full explanation & example data, as KDE has done (or take a look at Syncthing with its versioned telemetry, re-prompts for added data https://data.syncthing.net ), and keep both the community’s goodwill and get data voluntarily submitted.

Many would be happy to donate data about the hardware they use, for example, as statistical data points, so you know what to optimize for. Debian has been doing this, with user consent, for years: https://popcon.debian.org/ and does not seem to have received much bad publicity for it. (Probably because it is opt-in). Or Arch pkstats https://wiki.archlinux.org/title/pkgstats (even harder to opt into).

And even less open source data point aggregators get just as valuable like the Steam hardware survey. Where even some of the most privacy sensitive users click “yes” because the data collected is clearly communicated and helps to show the Linux usage patterns for a greater good. The argument that you cannot manage a similar level level of goodwill is ludicrous.

And if this passes in any form we would request this data to be free for public access, like debian stats, to help research and to help us understand our users too. If this data is so valuable, so easily de-anonymizable that you cannot make it public DO NOT COLLECT IT and drop this proposal. Consider App Usage Times of “Tor Browser” use being siphoned and these user IPs, possibly of journalists, being leaked to the wrong entity.

And if this was just an attempt to get Data to prove to IBM that they should not fire even more team members - accept the death of the distro and announce it instead of letting it die slowly through funding and team cuts.

Fedora is already reaping plenty of bad press with this proposal existing and with no clear response being given it will only receive more negative press the longer it stays without an explicit turnaround to opt-in or dropping this.

And maybe, just maybe, give your users the benefit of the doubt that its not a knee-jerk “no tracking ever!” reaction - but that they read the proposal, saw you wanting to make it opt-out with a default-on button in the installer in a not very assuming place and that they see that for the malicious antipattern that it is and that being the actual problem.

With our last hopes resting on FESCo to do the right thing and with Nixos, Mageia/openMandriva and openSUSE configs in Hand if not, signed by:

Angelo, Telegram Group Admin and Owner since 2017, will switch to another Linux distribution (yet to be decided) and stop recommending Fedora to friends, family and new users. Additionally, will give up from the Fedora Ambassador role and stop actively contributing to Fedora-related tech and communities.

Arun Mani J, Telegram Group Admin who always suggested Fedora for the people who need a taste of Leading Edge. Now have to change state because corporate greed will only end up killing the community.

Michał, multi-year Telegram Group Admin, will switch to openSUSE and stop recommending Fedora if the proposal passes.

Siddharth, multi-year Telegram Group Admin, will switch to Mageia and openMandriva (because they still need dnf) and stop recommending Fedora if the proposal passes with any kind of telemetry added, instead suggesting that they go for Linux Mint or Debian.

Wolfshappen, multi-year Telegram Group Admin and always glad to help debugging. Will switch to nixos and stop all public help and recommendation efforts for Fedora if this passes opt-out and will actively help and encourage migration efforts from users.

And last but not least our passionate Users in Support of this Draft that wanted to be explicitely named by the time of posting this. There will be more over time of course, check out our Group if you want to talk to them and get your own response.

Martín, moderator of the Spanish Telegram group for years. The group will be disbanded if opt-out. Will switch to another distribution if opt-out. Also very disappointed with the controversial paywall of the RHEL source code at the limit of the GPL taking into account the contract clauses.

sirduke, if opt-out, will immediately switch to another distribution and stop suggesting Fedora to any kind of user, especially those new to Linux. Very disappointed of each RHEL recent move and concerned of the future of Fedora: this would be the last straw.

keysmashley - I believe a Yes/No prompt would give proper consent and avoid the issues mentioned. If this passes I will move to NixOS and find a replacement for friends and family.

chic_luke. Used Fedora for several years and always been happy with it. Helped a lot of friends and community members switch out of Windows / macOS (and out of other Linux distros) in favor of Fedora Workstation, using large chunks of my free time to guide them through the full migration process. If this proposal passes, I am switching to another distro to be determined, and all the several friends I got on Fedora that I am still in contact with will be invited to migrate to that new distro, and I will personally spend my personal free time and resources to help them migrate their systems, from backup/restore to getting their setup back.

I’ve been using fedora since 2 years now and one of the major reasons I’ve used fedora is the commitment to privacy, morals and especially the user first attitude the project has upheld, and if the project resorts to such anti-user behavior just for telemetry I’ll be leaving fedora for debian.

PacPac, Fedora enthusiast and active member of the spanish group where I give support to others users. I’m planning to switching distro regardless of the outcome of this situation due to complete losing of trust on Red Hat, considering the attempts of overcoming the independence of Fedora Community, the censorship that has been made against some collaborators and the de-facto violation of their GPL obbligations.

meowdib, leukk, King Phyte, Flooding, anmol, lxwulf, enedil, Sergey (@serbro), @ExposedCat, naadiyaar

and see the poll for the others that didnt yet get named explicitely, with more to come.