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Privacy Considerations

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There are usually a few privacy considerations when it comes to building software like this, although truth be told, I haven't really thought about it.

For the most part, building a fast forum software means building one which doesn't collect a ridiculous amount of information I don't need like everyone else, but I'll list some perks anyway.

Firstly, we have an analytics system. This will either make you hop up and down in excitement, give a collective yawn or will make you shriek in horror at the horrifying amount of information that's coming in... Except. There really isn't that much information.

For the most part, I don't actually collect analytics information on individual users, only that which can be aggregated and presented as overall statistics, maybe the accurate is ever so slightly off, but it doesn't really matter.

There isn't really any information to anonymise or delete within ninety days there, as I just give admins what they generally need and don't waste some of frivolities.

I have some vague ideas on how I could add some anonymised per-user analytics to make it easer to figure out which features in the software users are struggling or not struggling with, but that would be a very unnecessary frill right now compared to the more important things.

Now onto logs. For a variety of reasons, you might wind up getting captured in a log including metadata for posts.

This is for security reasons and to prevent abuse. People sometimes pretend there is a way around this with clever hashing, but that simply makes it harder to put more powerful algorithms in place to ward off abuse in the future.

Generally speaking, the only things which persist in the long term for Gosora are post IPs, mod action logs, etc. And there may also be additional access logs, although this is information which is largely siloed off from casual access and analysis and doesn't really say that much.

Is isn't currently possible to purge these items via Gosora's user interface, although you can and probably should occasionally delete the log files from your site and maybe even fiddle with the database to prune other logs, for both privacy and to save space.

I'll document the best way to handle logs in a future post and I might improve the handling of them in the future. Things are always changing after-all.

The next item is, of course, the new Online Users widget.

Who's Online in a lot of systems is stalker box which tells just about everyone exactly which page you're viewing, when you were viewing it, which users have been on in the past day, what your current IP is, and puts the data in a convienient format in the database which can be queried or analysed whenever the admin decides to do a spot of statistical analysis.

However. That is not Gosora's Online Users.

My Online Users widget only says who is viewing at a particular "moment", information which might be useful in a tight-knit community, it does not say which page someone is viewing, it does not show your IP Address even to administrators, and it only shows the number of users online when it goes over a certain threshold (30 users), as who really needs an overwhelming list of 200 users.

One idea I have to improve is a toggleable switch to hide it from guests, as a regular might be interested in if there's someone who will promptly reply to them, but it really doesn't matter to a guest who is here or when.

Also, one thing to note is that Online Users is purely optional. Removing it is just a matter of hitting delete on the widget in the Control Panel and bam. It's gone.

You can recreate it, if you want, but ultimately, it would be nice, if we could phase out some of these "Forum 2.0" features.

Note: The upcoming Online Users Context Widget lists all of the users currently viewing the topic page you're currently viewing. It's basically Online Users, but scoped to a topic, more on this later.

This article might be updated in the future (or outright superseded with newer ones), so I'll bump it if it changes.