GitLab holds blameful post-mortem on its pulled telemetry plan

Gitlab Logo
Gitlab Logo

GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij has promised users that it will not rollout telemetry that sends data to third parties, as the firm tries to draw a line under its ill-fated effort to track what customers do with its platform.

The pledge came in an email to all users yesterday, in which Sibrandij apologized and admitted the telemetry effort was “a mistake”.

GitLab first disclosed its plan to rollout telemetry on its platform on October 10, as reported by Devclass. The telemetry plan would have used additional JavaScript snippets “that will interact with both GitLab and possibly third-party SaaS telemetry services (we will be using Pendo).”

However, it appears it was an email on October 23, headed “Important Updates to our Terms of Service and Telemetry Services”, that really put the cat amongst the pigeons. Some users said the prospect of data leaving their installations was unacceptable, and others said the prospect of tracking on GitHub was precisely why they’d made the switch to GitLab.


As Sijbrandij wrote in yesterday’s message, “Based on considerable feedback from our customers, users, and the broader community, we reversed course the next day and removed those changes before they went into effect.”

Further, he wrote, “GitLab will commit to not implementing telemetry in our products that sends usage data to a third-party product analytics service.”

Explaining the fateful decision, Sijbradnij wrote, “Clearly, our evaluation and communication processes for rolling out a change like this were lacking and we need to improve those processes.”

“Our main mistake was that we did not live up to our own core value of collaboration by including our users, contributors, and customers in the strategy discussion and, for that, I am truly sorry,” he continued. “It shouldn’t have surprised us that you have strong feelings about opt-in/opt-out decisions, first versus third-party tracking, data protection, security, deployment flexibility and many other topics, and we should have listened first.”

Not that the company is ditching the idea of tracking usage altogether. Following a ”retrospective that is happening on October 29 to document what went wrong”, Sibrandij said the firm would put together “a new proposal for improving the user experience and share it for feedback”. 

“We will take as much time as needed to make sure we get this right,” he pledged.

That might take a while. Judging by the user comments on the issue page for telemetry, while many users appreciated Sijbrandij’s mea culpa, feelings are still running high on the issue. At best, some might accept an opt-in strategy. At worst, some have declared that “the trust is gone” and that the company was following the same path as GitHub – a situation not helped by some users claiming copies of the email they received included… a tracking link.

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