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I've recently installed the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast and it's asking me whether to allow it or not to track my blog? Seems like a stupid question on my part but I'm still new on the blogging arena.

What do you guys think? What's the difference if I allow it to track me or not? Is there a mutual benefit for the two of us?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

For reference the file that handles the tracking and usage statistics for Yoast SEO is located at,

path/to/wp-content/plugins/wordpress-seo/admin/class-tracking.php

I have linked to the GitHub repository file in question for further inspection upon which you can see somewhat, relatively, harmless collection of data.

However what you determine as "harmless" is case dependent because the opposite could be true if you are storing any sensitive data within the descriptive headers of plugin or themes that may be intended for internal use only.

What information does Yoast SEO gather about your installed themes,

'name' => $theme_data->display( 'Name', false, false ),
'theme_uri' => $theme_data->display( 'ThemeURI', false, false ),
'version' => $theme_data->display( 'Version', false, false ),
'author' => $theme_data->display( 'Author', false, false ),
'author_uri'=> $theme_data->display( 'AuthorURI', false, false ),

...and your installed plugins,

'version' => $plugin_info['Version'],
'name' => $plugin_info['Name'],
'plugin_uri' => $plugin_info['PluginURI'],
'author' => $plugin_info['AuthorName'],
'author_uri' => $plugin_info['AuthorURI'],

...and your site,

'site' => array(
'hash' => $options['hash'],
'url' => site_url(),
'name' => get_bloginfo( 'name' ),
'version' => get_bloginfo( 'version' ),
'multisite' => is_multisite(),
'users' => count( get_users() ),
'lang' => get_locale(),
),
'pts' => $pts,
'comments' => array(
'total' => $comments_count->total_comments,
'approved' => $comments_count->approved,
'spam' => $comments_count->spam,
'pings' => $wpdb->get_var( "SELECT COUNT(comment_ID) FROM $wpdb->comments WHERE comment_type = 'pingback'" ),
),

Determine if any of that information bothers you being in the hands of another before deciding whether or not to share tracking statistics.

The tracking script runs once per week as per this transient.

set_transient( 'yoast_tracking_cache', true, 7 * 60 * 60 * 24 );

Will that slow down your site? No. If it does, your problems are bigger than the tracking script then ;)

The benefits of providing tracking statistics is that the information sent upstream back to the developer can be used to improve the plugin and its compatibility with other plugins and themes overall making for a better all round plugin.

Its common practice.

The potential downside to this is that the developer knows what themes and plugins you have installed, also, a collective of other site details as shown above.

As much as this information can be used for developmental purposes, it could also be used for marketing purposes, not so much directly, but indirectly. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily if the intention is good for which you'd have to place some faith in Yoast not wanting to stake his reputation over something as trivial.

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+1 Great writeup! Much needed dissection of the tracking code, thanks! –  brasofilo Nov 15 '12 at 12:50
3  
@brasofilo Thanks mate.. Its always worth inspecting. In this case... after doing so, I was thinking why does he need to know about my comments in that manner? And the amount of users my site has? Its interesting because I'm not drawing a correlation between those metrics, SEO and better-development which is the purpose of the tracking statistics in the first place. –  userabuser Nov 15 '12 at 13:00
2  
@userabuser +1. I would comment on the need (or lack thereof) to phone home with these data, but such discussion would be too far off-topic. :) –  Chip Bennett Nov 15 '12 at 13:03
2  
Yep, my thoughts too about that user and comments count. I would prefer to know that beforehand and not having to dig in the code to see what exactly is being tracked. Google searching is not revealing any official statement about it. Let us ping @JoostdeValk and see if he can offer his insights :) –  brasofilo Nov 15 '12 at 13:23
1  
Of course. Tracking is optional and in no way impacts the operation and functionality of the plugin with regards to your site. Tracking stats, or better named "usage stats" is purely for the benefit of the plugin developer as per their stated intentions (or not...) .. @brasofilo Good point, hopefully he chimes in. Suggestion: allow users the option to toggle which statistics they want to provide. –  userabuser Nov 15 '12 at 13:23

As you can read in the settings page your data is used for the future development of the plugin. I don't know what exactly the data is used for but maybe to avoid compability problems between different plugins and to integrate the plugin nicely with different themes.

To maintain a plugin as big as WordPress SEO, we need to know what we're dealing: what kinds of other plugins our users are using, what themes, etc. Please allow us to track that data from your install. It will not track any user details, so your security and privacy are safe with us.
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I see. Will it slow down my blog? I'm just paranoid. :D –  Panoy Nov 15 '12 at 11:25
    
@Panoy any code will slow down your blog to some extend. It's all a question of how much and in this case I'd not even worry about it unless you already have performance issues. –  Stephen Nov 15 '12 at 14:40

Every site owner should be this concerned about the information that they share with any third party. But there are a few important considerations that we must take in to account:

  • What we're sharing. Well documented and outlined above by @userabuser
  • Why we're sharing. Clearly stated by Yoast and quoted above by @Nicklas
  • Performance impact.
  • The trust factor. How well do we trust the person/company that we're sharing information with.

So from the answers we know exactly what we're sharing. It appears to me at least to be very reasonable and basic metrics about the site. And importantly it does not include any personal identification, so our users are safe.

We're being asked for this information to help in the improvement and future development of a great plugin.

Considering the quality of code that typically comes from this developer I'd not be overly concerned about the impact.

As far as the trust factor, well to be honest I can't think of many more highly respected and trusted WordPress developers.

So weight your own answers to these questions and make a decision that suits you.

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1  
I'll give you a +1 on that but also add that, power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely and that's what can happen when reputation grows beyond the individual or company at hand. Not saying this is the case for Yoast, I'd think not, but I'd be less inclined to base my decision on trust, instead I would assess the individual metrics and how they align with the product and individual/company and whether or not the provider is FOR profit or NOT for profit because that often drives the intent behind the collection of certain data. Not for ill-purpose per se but for research. –  userabuser Nov 15 '12 at 14:15
    
Exactly why I said "So weight your own answers to these questions and make a decision that suits you.", we each have to make our own decision based on our answers and our site. –  Stephen Nov 15 '12 at 14:34
    
That's exactly what I did, weighed and delivered, in support of your answer so that it may provide an expanded perspective when leaning on trust, as previous performance does not always guarantee future performance. But like I said... its in support of your answer. –  userabuser Nov 15 '12 at 14:54
    
That's exactly how I took your comment. My response was intended to support yours as well. The 'trust' decision is a purely subjective one that each of us has to make within our own context and experience. And your comment is certainly valid when it comes to determining the trust level. –  Stephen Nov 15 '12 at 15:07
1  
Thanks guys. A beginner like me learned much about the discussion. Didn't expect this would lead to a good and informative one. –  Panoy Nov 16 '12 at 7:14

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