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CyanogenMod Stats: Why You Should Opt-In

I’m going to guess that you heard about CyanogenMod no longer giving users the chance to opt out of providing anonymous usage statistics. You did not however, hear it from us. This is simply because right before our article about the change was due to be posted, we received word that this was being reverted. Here’s a little of what you would have read:

“Recently, it was announced that a change has been merged into CM stats that removes the ability to opt out of having anonymous usage data reported. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “ZOMG, OH NOEZ! My privacy!! Won’t somebody think of the children!!1!!11!” Okay maybe not, but there does seem to be some confusion over this decision.”

Apparently my assessment of some people’s reaction as “confusion” was a little off. A more accurate description would have been something along the lines of an uninformed, foot stamping tantrum—one which resulted in the reversal of the change and the CM team’s quest for realistic and usable usage statistics being sent swiftly back to square one. We were going to explain to those concerned precisely why you shouldn’t be bothered about the change and exactly what information was being collected and why. That seems like a bit of a waste of time now, but you guessed it, we’re going to anyway.

The reason behind the change, according to Google+ posts by various members of the CM team including Koush and Cyanogen himself was simple. This data is useful to them. They don’t feel that they are getting an accurate depiction of the user base by offering the ability to opt out. And guess what, they’re probably right. There are three devices in my house alone which have run various versions of CyanogenMod, but never once had the reporting option enabled. Don’t judge me, I’m a habitual “opter outer,” and I’ll bet I’m not alone. Those CM Statistics would probably take a huge leap if this had been non-negotiable from the beginning. Not only would this have allowed  the CyanogenMod team to get a much better grasp of their user base but – in the opinion of one Elite Recognised Developer – being able to show a substantial potential market of users who do not care about software differentiation to OEMs is bound to give them food for thought.

Now, of course I understand people having concerns about privacy; and I appreciate the point of those that wish to retain the chance to opt out for whatever reason. That said, it is incredibly frustrating to see a group such as the CM team effectively being railroaded into reverting this change by people who (in a lot of cases) don’t fully understand exactly what they are complaining about. The data collected is completely anonymous, and probably pales in comparison to the wealth of information already siphoned from your device by Google themselves and numerous third-party applications readily available in the Play Store. Vigilant readers will remember our article on enabling anonymous usage statistics on any ROM. This mod is based on the CM stats application itself and could mean that any number of ROMs available all over the Internet are already sending this information back to developers without your knowledge. There’s a reason that people want to collect such information and ultimately that is because it helps them to provide you, the end user, with a better final product.

So exactly what information does this send from your device?Events_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-3

  • Anonymized/hashed IMEI or WiFi MAC address,
  • Device name,
  • CM version,
  • Country,
  • Carrier,
  • That’s it.

The official reason for the reversal of the decision according to Mr. Kondik himself was that:

“I do not want CM to ever be perceived as a group who doesn’t respect the privacy of it’s users”

You can’t really argue with that, and the rest of his post explains that the change was for purely analytical purposes that seem insignificant in light of the “incredibly dubious things” carried out by some other applications. He also acknowledges that this is more than likely the reason for most people’s concern.

If you are somebody who objected to this without a full and thorough understanding of exactly how it would (or more accurately, would not) affect you, I implore you to take some time, look into the subject further, and enable that reporting option next time you flash. That may sound a little hypocritical from the guy who has never previously opted in, but I certainly will be from now on. The bottom line here is that there’s no need to worry about your privacy, having your IMEI number funneled directly into the hands of maniacal super villains, or being woken up in the middle of the night to find Cid looming over you. That probably won’t happen, probably…

Let us know how you feel about this in the comments below.

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