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03 April 2013, 17:40

CyanogenMod disables statistics opt-out, reverses decision

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The CyanogenMod developers have reversed a change in how the alternative open source firmware for Android devices transmits anonymised development information about its users to the project maintainer after users protested about the change.

CyanogenMod has, in the past, transmitted information to the developers, including the device manufacturer and model, CyanogenMod version, mobile network provider, country, IMEI number and MAC address. It would do this by default but users could disable the functionality if they wished. But with a recent change, this option would have been removed from the upcoming CyanogenMod 10.1 by CyanogenMod project leader Steve "cyanogen" Kondik.

The data in question is used to generate a number of statistics for the project which, among other details, show that CyanogenMod is currently installed on around four million devices. In his original commit, Kondik said that not having an accurate number of how many people use his software "is painful" and that he was "making an executive decision to remove the opt-out and always turn stats on". According to Kondik, the data is anonymised in such a way that "there is nothing evil that can be done with it" and the project only uses it to see how successful its software is. Developer Koushik "koush" Dutta also included patches that enable the CyanogenMod project to analyse this data with Google Analytics.

Both changes prompted a wave of disapproving comments to Kondik's patch on GitHub. Kondik initially addressed the concerns, making the case that user statistics are an essential prerequisite for any well-planned software development. According to him, users who did not wish to send anonymised usage data could take the CyanogenMod code and compile it without his changes. In a Google+ post on the topic, Dutta points out that "most Google Play apps and even Google themselves" collect a similar amount of information as CyanogenMod. This argument does not, however, allow for the fact that CyanogenMod is popular with a contingent of users who use it specifically because it does not submit such usage data to Google.

Judging from their comments, Steve Kondik and Koushik Dutta seemed determined to stick with their changes. However, the patches were suddenly reversed with a commit by Kondik. In the commit message, Kondik remarks: "Apparently this is a bigger issue for a small number of extremely vocal users. We should respect their wishes, no matter how off-base their claims are in this context."

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