What data does Flattr collect about you and why?

Some of our more privacy-consious users have asked us what kind of data do we collect about our users and what do we do with this information.

There’s also the “why collect data at all?” question and I’ll start with that. It’s clear that we need to know enough about you so you can log in and see your stuff. The other aspect of building websites, services and web apps is data for usability – it helps in understanding if we’re building a good product. Are people getting things done or is our poor design getting in the way, making users, you, frustrated, and leave us.

Theoretically we (or anyone) doesn’t need to collect this information but practically it would be like throwing darts in the dark, we’d have no idea if anything we did mattered to anyone.

Signing up and your profile

Registering for a Flattr account and filling out your profile (which you don’t have to do) obviously gives us basic information about you. You control fully what information is shown about you on your public profile page. You can control in your profile settings what of this information is displayed publicly.

We may use any information in your profile to identify you in case you’ve forgotten your password and don’t have access to the email account you signed up with.

Visiting Flattr.com

When you visit our website then we collect the usual non-personal “traffic data” which includes your IP address, your ISP, which site you come from, which pages you view etc. We do not associate this data with your user account so no personalized information about which pages on our site you view is recorded.

Why do we collect website usage data? To better understand how well (or not) our pages are working, to see where our users are having problems, which pages serve no purpose and which pages require more attention from us.

Occasionally we use special tracking to create heat map click analysis to figure out what are the real pain points (users clicking on page elements that aren’t clickable etc). Again, this information is non-personal and not associated with your account.

Flattr button on 3rd party websites

When you visit a 3rd party website with Flattr buttons on it then the only information we collect is if you click on the button. We use cookies to tell your browser that you have clicked that particular button this month and that’s it.

We do not track or store information about sites or pages you visit and this has been our company’s stance from the very launch of Flattr.

Emails you receive from us

We will never give your email to a third party without your explicit permission.

You can expect two types of emails from us – those related to your account and activity with your revenue, subscriptions (transactional emails), and others containing product updates, news, offers.

Some of these emails contain tracking codes meaning we track if our users open the emails and click on any of the links in the emails. This data is non-personal as well so we’ll only get generic “100 people opened the email, 35 clicked on a link” type of information.

Why do we track this information? Like all of you we have irrelevant information, especially in our mailboxes. Understanding how many users read our emails and find the links interesting enough helps us either stop certain emails or make them more relevant and useful.

You can stop receiving emails from us by updating your account preferences. Note that you’ll still receive super important emails like the password reminder.

You’ll find more detailed information about our data collection and usage in our Privacy Policy. We tried to make it as easy to read as possible (always a challenge with legal texts) but if you have further questions about this topic then leave a comment here.

9 thoughts on “What data does Flattr collect about you and why?

  1. Thanks for this explanation. :)
    How can you track if an email was opened? Embedded images are not loaded by default in all email-reader I know, so the only thing you could know is the tracking-parameter from links in the email.

  2. Well, I am one of these “more privacy-consious users”. :-)

    I wouldn’t even have recognized that there is a tracking going on at all if there weren’t that ID and an (to me) unknown domain in the links, which I guess is a third party service.

    And still I think the information you want can be found by just reading the normal web server’s log files — in this case of course by a script or so, like awstats. Usually you get a referer in there, so you can know where a click comes from. You don’t need a special third party service, and you don’t need a (unique?) ID.

    If the user name or some other kind of identifying data is stored in that log file you could delete it before running awstats (or another statistic tool) over it, so there is still no connection between a referer and a special user.

    Greets, Sabine

  3. Thanks for your explanation! I think the point “Flattr button on 3rd party websites” is very important for privacy in Germany. We got a heavy debate about the facebook like button and that is not legal to use it at websites, because it collects data from anybody also from not logged in facebook users.

  4. Thanks for this post. Good to know that you take your users’ privacy seriously, something that cannot be said at all about certain other sites (whose whole business model depends on collecting and monetizing the information their users create).

    But just for the sake of completeness, you should mention (please correct me if I am wrong) that you store the complete click-stream for every user (who has flattered what and when) in a non-anonymized fashion indefinitely (even after revenues for the previous month have been settled), and that this data is retained even after the user deletes his account. No criticism, and of course you are doing this because of legal requirements (the nature of which a blog post such as this one seems ideal to explain).

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