Designers and developers need to learn about how people use their tools in order to make their tools more useful and easier to use. Usually, software companies rely on invasive data collection techniques that don't respect their users.

At Tails, we are transparent about what data we collect from our users and we manipulate this data with maximum care to respect our users' privacy and not put them in danger.

Surveys

If you are answering one of our surveys about your use of Tails, here is how your data is processed and stored.

Full survey responses

  • The survey infrastructure is hosted on one of our dedicated servers and stored on encrypted disks.

  • Only a few members of our team have access to the full survey responses.

  • We delete the full responses from our servers after at most 12 months.

  • Only the researchers who are analyzing a survey are allowed to download the full responses on their computers, always stored on encrypted disks.

  • The researchers delete the full responses from their computers after at most 12 months.

Survey report

We only publish aggregated or anonymous data from surveys in reports, for example:

  • Aggregated statistics, like how many users use OnionShare or would like to be able to persist a custom background.

  • Quotes from open-ended questions after redacting them and removing any personal information.

  • Personal information or email addresses are never published.

As an example, see our report on our survey about OpenPGP and Pidgin from 2020.

Usability tests

If you participate in usability tests with researchers from Tails, here is how your data is processed and stored.

Full recording

  • The researchers store the full recording on their computers, always on encrypted disks, and for no more than 12 months.

  • For usability tests done online, we use a video call application that is self-hosted on a secure, trusted, and non-commercial server. The recording is downloaded as soon as possible to the researchers' computers and deleted from the server.

Usability findings

  • Your name or any personal information is never published in any reports from the research. If we need to refer to your session, in particular, we either use a participant number or a pseudonym.

  • We publish reports from the usability tests to summarize our findings, for example:

  • We might publish quotes from what you said during the usability tests after redacting them and removing any personal information.

  • If you gave your consent to share the recording with other people from Tails, we might extract short video clips from the full recording and share them with the rest of the team as we see fit, but never on public communication channels. Video clips are as short as needed and never contain personal information.

  • If you gave your consent to share the recording publicly, we might extract short video clips from the full recording and publish them online, on communication channels of the Tails project or other projects. Video clips are as short as needed and never contain personal information.

    For example, we might use video clips to demonstrate usability problems to other projects, like this usability issue that we reported to balenaEtcher.

Interviews

If you are interviewed about your use of Tails by researchers from Tails, here is how your data is processed and stored.

Full recording

  • The researchers store the full recording on their computers, always on encrypted disks, and for no more than the time needed to transcribe the interview.

  • For interviews done online, we use a video call application that is self-hosted on a secure, trusted, and non-commercial server. The recording is downloaded as soon as possible to the researchers' computers and deleted from the server.

Interview transcripts

  • We transcribe the interview, edit the transcript, and share it with you over email.

  • We only mention personal details, like your name and location, in the transcript, if you give us your consent. You can ask us to remove anything you want from the transcript.

  • After you review the transcript, we might publish it on our website if you give us your consent.

    As an example, see our interview with Roberto in October 2019.

Automatic connections to our website

If you use Tails and connect to the Tor network, here is how the minimal and anonymous data that we collect about your use of Tails is stored and processed.

After connecting to the Tor network, your Tails automatically downloads 2 pages from our website over Tor:

  1. A security check, to know if your Tails has known security vulnerabilities.

    If you use Tails in one of the languages available on our website, your Tails downloads the page in this language.

  2. A list of available updates, to know if your Tails needs to be updated.

    Your Tails downloads the list of updates corresponding to your base version of Tails—the version that you first installed or to which you last did a manual upgrade.

We count these downloads to know how many times Tails was started each month.

Here is the information stored in our server logs about these downloads:

- [03/Dec/2020:06:25:24 +0000]  "GET /security/index.de.atom HTTP/2.0" 200 20871 "-" "-"
- [03/Dec/2020:06:25:25 +0000]  "GET /upgrade/v2/Tails/4.10/amd64/stable/upgrades.yml.pgp HTTP/2.0" 200 1081 "-" "-"

They contain:

  • The date and time (without any time zone information)
  • The URL of the page
  • The language of your Tails session (here de for German)
  • The HTTP status code (here 200 for OK)
  • The base version of your Tails (here 4.10)
  • The size of the download (here 20871 and 1081, which is the same for all users)

The pages are downloaded over Tor and we don't store any IP addresses.

Our website is hosted on one of our dedicated servers and the logs are stored on encrypted disks.

Contact

If you have any questions regarding our retention of user research data, contact sajolida@pimienta.org.