I’m starting to roll out a “check online for updates” feature for my various applications. So far, it’s implemented for TagAssist and Count Anything, and I’m gradually adding it to my other applications as I upgrade them.
I think that it’s pretty reasonable to collect this information, especially because I don’t track any individuals. At any rate, almost all the information I get through Google Analytics (and more) would be available from my Apache log files anyway.
But what about checking online? Even if Felix doesn’t send any information, the mere fact of connecting to my server tells me that somebody is running my software, and from the user’s IP address, I could tell a lot more (like link that IP address to the IP addresses of people who have downloaded the software — presto, download-to-install ratio).
Some other software makers are quite strident about “capturing” user information. Many will force you to give an email address before even allowing you to download their software, or make you contact them in order to get a price. They call people like me foolish to not grab every “lead” I can. I strongly suspect that most such companies are run by graduates of marketing or business programs, and not software developers.
But to me, it’s not about what you can do, or what will earn you the most money in the short term, or even what you can get away with. I prefer to be as open and transparent about my activities as possible, and if some action strikes me as sleazy or shady, I’d rather just avoid it.