Audacity drops plans to introduce Telemetry

Martin Brinkmann
May 16, 2021

Plans to add Telemetry to the open source audio editor Audacity have been dropped according to a new post on the project's official GitHub repository.

The intention to add Telemetry was revealed in a post on the site in early May 2021. There, developers revealed that they wanted to introduce Telemetry in Audacity to focus development resources better.

The revelation came at an inappropriate moment, just days after it was revealed that project leadership changed.

The developers planned to ship future versions of Audacity with Telemetry turned off, so that no data would be transferred unless users of the application would toggle the setting first.

Another point of criticism that was leveled at the decision makers was that third-party solutions by Google and Yandex were selected out of convenience.

A post by the new project leader highlights that the team was caught by surprise by the negative response to the plan.

The decision has been made that Telemetry won't be included in Audacity after all. The proposed Telemetry feature won't be implemented after all.

The team is still interested in in error reports, as these are critical when it comes to the addressing of issues. Audacity will include an option to send error reports to the team if a SQLite error, application crash or non-fatal exception is detected.

Users are in control when it comes to the sending of the report, which will include the following:

  • An option to view the complete error report data before it is sent
  • For crashes and errors, it will send the OS used
  • For crashes it will send CPU data, like number of cores
  • Equally prominent buttons to “send” or “don’t send” this particular error report
  • A checkbox (unchecked by default) offering to remember the user’s decision and do the same for future error reports without asking
  • The decision for future error reports can be changed in Preferences at any time

Error reports that are sent are stored in a self-hosted Sentry database "on a server located in the EU".

Audacity will also check for new versions of the program on system start to inform users about new versions. Update checking can be disabled in the settings and in the dialog that pops up when a new version has been discovered, once the changes land in Audacity.

The check reveals the IP address, operating system version and Audacity version to Audacity. The raw IP address won't be logged, but a non-reversible hash of the IP address will be logged to improve the accuracy of "the daily statistics". Data is stored in an EU country and won't be transferred to third-parties.

Now You: what is your take on the development?

Audacity drops plans to introduce Telemetry
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Audacity drops plans to introduce Telemetry
The development team of the open source audio editor Audacity have cancelled plans to introduce Telemetry in the client.
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  1. Der Terminator said on May 29, 2021 at 8:18 pm

    Too late, Audacity. You opened your little Deep State mouth to threaten tyranny against your users and now I will have to enter market competition against you. By testing the waters, you showed your hand, and now I will never trust you again.

  2. foolishgrunt said on May 17, 2021 at 6:40 pm

    I always turn off telemetry whenever/wherever I can. I also admit that my aversion to all forms of telemetry is probably unreasonable.

    And as long as it is permanently opt-in, I’m completely fine with developers adding telemetry to their programs.

    1. OPT-IN OPT-OUT TROLLS said on May 18, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      Be glad if you can at all opt-out, it’s ridiculous reading your kind of comments whom can’t seem to make the tiny effort of a few clicks to opt-out, the developer miss out many who aren’t even aware of opt-in and/or wouldn’t care to be part of telemetry collection in order to make the product better.

      1. Wilson said on May 27, 2021 at 2:39 am

        You think that offering an opt-out option is somehow a gift that ungrateful peasants ought to be grateful for? That users ought not to even expect that much?

        How about you knock it down a peg, friend. Users have the right to decide what they are and are not comfortable with when it comes to what software is doing.

        No matter how much a software developer may want to ideally obtain entire, complete analytical data from all of their users for the improvement of their software, they ought not to be forcing telemetry upon all users in an attempt to obtain that data. Or, rather, they /can/ do that if that is what they want to do. But if they do so, and a user of their product (or many users of their product) does not care for that decision, users are well within their rights to abandon that piece of software for something that is more to their liking (or to fork it).

        If a developer is able to get a general or pretty good idea via polling, forums, e-mails, etc. of what their users feel about their software, what features are considered the most important, and so on, that ought to be considered a “win” by the developer. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  3. Tim said on May 17, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Audacity’s become a great, useful tool without telemetry. Some feedback from Audacity users can be gathered from forums and other places online though how much useful it is I dunno. Many complain about Audacity’s look, that’s for granted. IMHO its developers could offer two versions, one of them could offer new, experimental features and telemetry. It would be OK.

    1. Anonymous said on May 17, 2021 at 7:38 pm

      I don’t think it works that well collecting telemetry like info from discussion forums only although some feedback can’t be replaced with telemetry only either, it would take too much time from the developers precious time sifting through meticulously every forum post, so telemetry is an excellent way of distilling certain type of data, and not every user is so diligent signing up on the forum and reporting back when there’s a glitch.
      However, telemetry should always be possible to opt-out from and without too much hassle hidden behind dark paths if the user so wishes.

  4. m3city said on May 17, 2021 at 8:44 am

    I disagree with most of the comments. I think it’s ok if a free/foss (or any other unpaid and fully functional style) software has telemetry, as long as the publisher states the intents of it, type of gathered info. I might even swallow it if there is no opt-out. We are about to trust the developer that the software is sane, but we suspect bad intentions with telemetry? If one develops software that tracks certain features, then I guess it’s needed and usefull.

    And it’s completely other with paid software, or hydras like android apps, software made by forprofit companies. I could trust them based on general trust to a particular party and privacy policy, and let telemetry. And there are monsters like google, fb, www in general that I don’t trust at all and suspect of spying for money.

    Thus I’m amazed that audacity developers backed up. They should stand their ground and say “hey, we gather this info to make the program better, for free. we say we get only tech stuff, anonimity guarenteed and no sale to 3d party. so stfu or go somewhere else”. I would and understand and respect that. Free software users are such pain in ass.

    1. Jamie said on May 18, 2021 at 8:37 am

      You don’t understand the situation at all. Closed source and open source are two VERY different things. This isn’t just free software as in you don’t pay money for it, it’s open source. The “developer” making these changes is a newcomer who decided to add spyware immediately after taking the reins. It’s not the people who originally made the software. Furthermore, had they said STFU and deal with it, that’s exactly what people would have done, but the way they would have dealt with it would have been the nail in Audacity’s coffin. They would have copied the source and started a new version of the application without the spyware, and the original Audacity would have disappeared as no one would use it anymore. Why would you when you can use the spyware free version? The people who make and use FOSS are not the people playing Freemium games on iPhone.

    2. Yash said on May 17, 2021 at 7:56 pm

      You took words straight outta my mouth.

  5. VioletMoon said on May 17, 2021 at 2:16 am

    Not my comment: “Ocenaudio has all the editing capabilities of Audacity but wrapped in a much more streamlined, modern and intuitive interface. It’s not open-source, but it’s free, doesn’t have ads, is also cross-platform and runs fast at native speed.”

    There are other options, and if Audacity were to go ahead with Telemetry [optional], it wouldn’t bother me or many others in the least. Another fork may be a good thing–in this case, telemetry would force innovation.

    As it is, I find Audacity’s UI stuck in the long ago and have moved on to other programs like Audition and Garage Band.

  6. Anonymous said on May 16, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    Good news. Glad they listen to their users unlike Mozilla. RIP Firefox.

    1. listen to my tiny violin said on May 18, 2021 at 9:24 am

      Even brave has telemetry, it just takes twice as many clicks to turn it off than in Firefox. Get over it and seek some help

  7. beemeup5 said on May 16, 2021 at 8:06 pm

    What could be known with telemetry could also be gleamed with less intrusive methods. Create polls and surveys on a user forum or on reddit or wherever lots of Audacity users are likely to congregate. Forums are great because they are channels in which users can talk to you. If lots of people want a certain feature, they’ll make it known so long as there is a means of doing so.

    Telemetry will always be a suboptimal method of understanding your userbase because it is a one-way channel. There is no interaction, no engagement, only an ever widening chasm between developers and actual users. Just look to Mozilla as the shining beacon of what NOT to do.

  8. Janne Granström said on May 16, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    No usage logs to developers EVER.

    No, we want every damn feature of that application. Even we don’t use every tool what it offers, but i want that i or somebody else have that option to use those in the future.

    people, please turn off every telemetry, in every application what you use, it is there only to make your favorite applications to doing less for you.

    1. Mikhoul said on May 17, 2021 at 4:59 pm

      I agree 10000% with you, telemetry just slowdown innovation since when using telemetry devs focus mainly on the most used features and not on innovations.

      It’s more a popularity contest for features than developing useful features whatever how many people use them.

  9. Anonee said on May 16, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Remember when Brinkmann made a post on here claiming that this telemetry was going to be a good thing? LOL!!!

    1. Friar Tux said on May 22, 2021 at 6:00 am

      I’m with Brinkmann on this one. Telemetry/data collection actually isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. And it’s been around since long before the Internet. It’s just easier now. I prefer that IF I’m going to search for stuff, or get ads, that they be relevant to my location and past searches. There can be no really personal info gathered as I don’t put really person info on the web. Common sense, folks, common sense.

      1. owl said on May 22, 2021 at 12:50 pm

        @Friar Tux,

        I agree with your full statement.

        Telemetry has become an indispensable system in monitoring because it provides real-time, logical data. Power generation facilities, infrastructure facilities, airplanes, train operating systems, competition vehicles, and even in marathon races, etc. them can use “telemetry” to detect anomalies and prevent accidents before they happen.
        Naturally, gathering information by telemetry is essential in the development of industrial products (it is common knowledge in the industrial world).
        Google’s cunning collection of personal information and the secretive interception of communications by the NSA and other state agencies have raised doubts about telemetry, but that does not mean that telemetry is evil.

        For example, in another topic,
        the maverick opinions such as “An email client should not be a Web Client” keep being posted again and again, and I am truly amazed at the ignorance and lack of understanding.
        Instead of denying and hating things without knowing why, they should study properly.
        I am honestly shocked that this kind of low-level vandalism is repeated in the ghacks community.

      2. owl said on May 22, 2021 at 1:10 pm

        Corrected wording
        wrong: the maverick opinions such as “An email client should not be a Web Client”
        correct: the irrational opinions such as “An email client should not be a Web Client”

    2. Herman Cost said on May 17, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      I’m strongly against anyone accessing my computer system without my express permission. However, Audacity apparently clearly specified that this telemetry was to be opt-in. As long as they did that in a way that was not in any way misleading to the user, I have to agree with Martin that it should not have caused an outcry.

      Of course, the reason that the word telemetry has become so emotionally charged is because it has in fact been abused time and time again by both large and small IT related vendors to obtain information for advertising and other far worse purposes. People are unfortunately been proved correct in their suspicions about the negative usage of their personal data.

      1. kids said on May 17, 2021 at 7:25 pm

        I’m not a big fan of telemetry although I understand it’s necessity when applied the right way and might even consider participating for the greater good, but I’m not going to bitch about whether it’s opt-in or opt-out, as long as I can disable it without too much hassle, anything else is petty mindset.

    3. Martin Brinkmann said on May 17, 2021 at 6:36 am

      Still believe that it was, and that its intentions were mostly misunderstood because there is outcry whenever someone mentions “telemetry”. Also, it was opt-in, so no user would have transferred anything without giving consent first.

      1. Jamie said on May 18, 2021 at 8:29 am

        The timing was the main problem. If you come in all of a sudden and the first “improvement” after your buyout is something commonly referred to as “spyware,” you’re clearly out of touch with FOSS users.

  10. ULBoom said on May 16, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    “…the team was caught by surprise by the negative response…”

    Kinda says it all, clueless in Bubbletown.

    1. ULBoom said on May 18, 2021 at 3:27 am

      My comment was just about the team being surprised users don’t like telemetry. Audacity’s little saga has been a cluster; all one had to do was not accept telemetry. Or accept if if you want to contribute.

      Ubuntu went through the same thing a few years ago. There are many die hards out there still spewing the “Ubuntu = Telemetry = Bad” mantra. Turn it off, big deal.

      Seems the real issue is trust. When something like this happens users get upset and rightly so. We’ve been conditioned to be suspicious of so called Tech with all their data scraping and creepy tracking. I don’t see many positive things done with telemetry. MS, for example, scrapes and scrapes and scrapes and Windows Updates are still royally hosed!

      MS, e.g., can still sell our data to ad companies whether it’s used for product improvement or not. Do Google or Facebook have any consumer products that aren’t ad servers? Of course users are skittish.

      Assuming Audacity’s team aren’t just naive greenhorns, if they truly were surprised by disdain for telemetry they’ve lost their sense of self; forgotten the difference between being parts of a machine vs. users of a machine.

      Audacity’s telemetry will be back…

    2. Ron said on May 17, 2021 at 3:11 am

      >> Kinda says it all, clueless in Bubbletown. <<

      This is why all things computers / programs / internet has been going downhill for the last 7 or 8 years.

      1. Jamie said on May 18, 2021 at 8:24 am

        I think that’s the mainstreamification/popularization of computers and the internet. The average human is an idiot.

    3. Flo said on May 17, 2021 at 12:00 am

      More like they lived in hope the negative majority (includes me) were intelligent enough to realize they had the power to do nothing and telemetry would not be used against them. If Microsoft had done that, we would not have the constant battle stopping their snooping.

      Looking at a single aspect of Telemetry, people who allow Telemetry are soldiers of the software improvement battle. The difference is Microsoft uses conscription and Audacity planned to use volunteers. Bravo those who volunteer or accept conscription but count me a pacifist. I’d rather complain software is not working than do something to help fix it.

  11. John said on May 16, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    This is why free and open source software is great. People have more options than just complaining about the choices of the developer. If the developer makes an unwelcome change to the project and doesn’t back down, the project will be forked, and if the community really prefers the version without the unwelcome changes by the original developer, it will be abandoned and obsoleted en-mass by the user base.

    1. Friar Tux said on May 22, 2021 at 5:48 am

      I haven’t used Audacity in years. It worked fine a while back but then seemed to drop some file formats so I changed to mhWaveEdit. I like it better than Audacity.

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