Edward Loveall

Go's Telemetry Proposal Does Not Exist in Isolation

Russ Cox, a significant contributor to the Go language, is proposing a way to add privacy-respecting telemetry to open-source projects starting with Go. It’s well-written and as far as I can tell, genuine in its goal to provide useful data without violating privacy. If this were implemented as-is, it would likely accomplish that goal.

It’s easy to look at this as a headline and think “Oh no, my data” and denounce it right then and there. Russ gets that:

you may have a visceral negative reaction to a mental image of intrusive, detailed traces of your every keystroke and mouse click headed back to the developers of the software you’re using. And for good reason!

My problem with this is that Google controls Go, and Google’s business is abusing privacy for profit. I may very well trust this one proposal or heavily audited code when it’s released. What I don’t trust is the ecosystem that it lives in. If Google wants to add telemetry to all code produced by the Go compiler (something explicitly nixed in Russ’s proposal) in the future, it can. Open-source projects and their business motivations are not frozen in time.

This is a good proposal, and I do not trust Google to keep it good.