Google May Add Telemetry to the Go Programming Language

Google is once again in the midst of a privacy controversy, with a proposal to add telemetry to the Go programming language....
Google May Add Telemetry to the Go Programming Language
Written by Matt Milano
  • Google is once again in the midst of a privacy controversy, with a proposal to add telemetry to the Go programming language.

    Go is a programming language developed at Google. While similar to the C language, it adds a number of important, modern additions. Russ Cox is the Google engineer that is currently taking the lead with Go development, and he has put forth a controversial proposal, one that would involve turning on telemetry in Go by default.

    Cox revealed the proposal on GitHub and, predictably, it met with quite a bit of push back from other developers. The response is not surprising, since most open source developers and users are notoriously opposed to most forms of telemetry.

    “Should be off by default,” wrote user Stolas. “There is no reason for a development chain to have any kind of telemetry on by default. Or, as I do understand the need for it to be on by default, it should check what the user wants on first start.”

    “I think that lowering the barrier to opt-in and share data is a better solution than increasing the barrier to opt out,” added user w3bb. “People who would decline telemetry at a prompt are people who don’t want telemetry, making the life of those people harder is really bad whether it’s intentional or not.”

    In addition to the open source community’s natural aversion to telemetry, the fact that it is Google behind this proposal adds to the angst. Google, unfortunately, has a long history of not respecting user privacy. Even though the telemetry being discussed is largely performance metrics about the programming language itself, many users were not comfortable with Google have yet more information about them or the tools they use.

    “Personally, I don’t like the idea of automatic collection of telemetry pushed on me,” wrote Szymon Ulewicz. “Isn’t Google tracking enough information about me already?”

    Some users also pointed out Google’s long history of running rough-shod over other interests in the pursuit of its own.

    “Google has a history of unilateral decisions that have unintended consequences,” writes khm. “Consider this document: Google’s position is simple. If you don’t want us to geolocate your wifi host, reconfigure your network name to ‘_nomap.’ The desires of the network owner, local regulations, and corporate compliance are irrelevant to Google; change your SSID or we will gather your data.”

    Google’s past behavior of forcing their will on other people and leaving it to them to adapt left some developers feeling that they have little say in the matter, despite the fact that Cox was asking for feedback.

    “I don’t want to read into intent too much, but I am getting the distinct impression that the decision to ship telemetry has already been made, and that we are being asked to rubber stamp it,” wrote Louis Thibault. “I sincerely hope that is not the case.”

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