[wp-hackers] Revisiting phone home and privacy

Otto otto at ottodestruct.com
Wed Dec 9 17:21:18 UTC 2009

On Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 11:06 AM, Austin Matzko <if.website at gmail.com> wrote:
> I don't see how this is relevant.  The last time I checked pingbacks
> weren't sending out anything that wasn't obviously already public and
> certainly not a list of the blog's plugins.

Not understanding your objection here. If you don't want to send a
list of the plugins, then *disable plugin update checks*. I mean, you
can't have it both ways. To do update checks, you *must* send a list
of the plugins. This seems rather obvious, yeah?

> You seem to be saying that the URL-to-plugins list information is not
> being kept.

I don't see how that is relevant even if they are being kept. Yes, I
suspect that this data is not kept, since the plugin download counter
is so easily gamed at the moment, but there's nothing to gain from
knowing what plugins any given site runs. On 90% of sites out there, I
can tell you what plugins they run merely from looking at the site,
and I can usually get a complete list of them 80% of the time, unless
they've taken pains to hide them.

> I'm not "concerned"; I object in principle to phoning home the URL
> with associated plugins.  It's the combination of data: associating
> the URL to the plugins and the plugins with each other and with the
> URL that together form an unnecessary intrusion into the privacy of
> the users of WordPress.
> The "why?" question is misplaced.

I disagree. The "why?" question is entirely relevant given the above statement.

What exactly can I do with a list of plugins on your site? Hack into
it through some plugin's security hole? This seems naive, site hackers
don't work that way. It's simpler and faster for me to just download
an automated hacking tool, grab all the WP related exploits I can
find, and run them all on your site. One of them will get me in, if
it's possible to do so.

> With respect to privacy, the burden
> of proof should be on those collecting the information to prove that
> their reasons for collecting it are justified.  All the good, stated
> goals---keeping updated, knowing how many are using what version of
> MySQL and PHP---could be done without the privacy intrusions I've
> mentioned.

I guess I simply don't see any of that data as a "privacy intrusion",
as I don't consider any of it to be private data in any respect.

Sent from Memphis, TN, United States

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