User privacy and the use of gravatar icons for avatars.

Discussion in 'Forum Information and Issues' started by adrian, 5 April 2019.

  1. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    I hope I haven't confused anyone too much but the more observant among you may have noted a small change to my avatar icon.:D

    This has absolutely nothing to do with modelling so please feel free to ignore at this point. However for those who use the avatar to express their character there are a few changes for a minority who use a facility called gravatar. Again if you don't use gravatar feel free to gloss over this geeky computer computer stuff and go and have a look at some proper modelling on some of the other threads. :thumbs:

    With the recent updates to RMweb and a few other comments raised I decided to have a look at how we operate on WT. It is one of my (few) pet peeves - online privacy and tracking users, it's something I abhor and turn off tracking and cookies as much as possible. Not that I would ever contemplate it but hypothetically if I were to consider some elevated paid membership the one primary benefit I would offer users would be an ad-free, tracking free access to the forum.

    Whilst some (nay - many) may consider it rather hubristic of me but I do take great pride in the fact that we have managed to maintain WT as an ad-free zone.

    I do acknowledge that I am often accused of being rather loquacious at time but I do want to be clear about the principles behind my decisions so please bear with me I will get to the point.

    Whilst the issue I'm discussing here only affects a small minority of our members I think it is important enough to make everyone aware of the situation. It relates to what happens when you browse this forum, or indeed any forum or website, when you view a page on a website there is a lot of stuff that goes on in the background. With the recent EU changes with GDPR you will have no doubt seen all the popup dialogs on websites imploring you to accept the "user enhancements" - sorry to burst the bubble but it's nothing of the sort. They simply want to track your every move. Just try it one day and have a look at the "manage my settings" option you may well be surprised at the huge quantities of "advertising cookies" that want to tag your online activity. Personally I have nothing to hide but there are huge user privacy implications of them tracking you. < I did warn you that it was going to get geeky - so congratulations if you've kept going to this point!>

    So back to WT - if you look at a thread on the forum then the only external links are to one google analytics domain and the gravatar domain. I get very little from the google analytics so I'm thinking of turning that off. The sole remaining one is gravatar, now there are only about 3 dozen members who use gravatar images but it does add a lot of overhead to loading a thread. I have also been reviewing the forum compliance with GDPR and it has highlighted a few privacy concerns with gravatar.

    So finally I'm cutting the thrust of the thread - if you are using gravatar to manage your online avatar then I have now disabled it for any new users. Any existing users that use the gravatar service will find they still work for the moment and their avatar image remains. However in a couple of weeks I propose to sever all links with the gravatar service at which point for anyone using gavatars their avatar will go blank and they will have to upload an avatar via their account settings.

    Fortunately it only affects a few members (about 35-40) and I know it is only a model railway forum so in the grand scheme of life fairly irrelevant. So apologies for the length of the post and I hope you'll forgive me for my indulgence in this extensive post. I just wanted to make it clear my stance on user privacy and the fact that it is very important to me.

    If by any remote chance that anyone has managed to read my post to this point then please feel free to respond - as you may have gathered user online privacy is a particular soapbox of mine, that and copyright issues!! I would applaud it if anyone else as a result of this thinks twice or challenges why some random website has to know your personal details.

    I've plenty more to say but I should stop here as I've probably bored the vast majority of readers!! :rolleyes:
    Last edited: 5 April 2019
    Neil, michl080, BrianG and 18 others like this.
  2. Overseer

    Overseer Western Thunderer


    Disconnect provides a useful free thingy to block and visualise tracking. It can be frightening to see hundreds of ad requests from some web sites and the number of survey and marketing companies informed while browsing some sites. Speeds things up as well.

    Edit to add image. Not sure what the unidentified site that is informed would be. The new version of Disconnect may not be as useful as this ancient one.
    Last edited: 5 April 2019
    mickoo and Dog Star like this.
  3. parky

    parky Western Thunderer

    I applaud you for your openness on this subject though I have to admit this is one of the few place that accepting cookie tracking does not bother me as the whole ethos of WT is so refreshing

    My one thought out of all this is how is this forum funded, if what little income from the Google spy is turned off. I am sure there are a number of us that would freely 'donate' some funds to keep WT the way that we all enjoy. No way do I want to see this forum turned into a commercial operation, though I do appreciate whether it be a commercially hosted server or domestic one it will cost to keep it online

    Oh and whilst at the keyboard, those QCAD videos were just what I needed to get started on my latest project :thumbs:
  4. Jim smith-wright

    Jim smith-wright Western Thunderer

    Hi Adrian

    I can’t remember if I do or not. Is there a way for us to check?

  5. Rob R

    Rob R Western Thunderer

    I have have no idea if I have an Avatar or a Gravatar but I will find out when Adrian turns them off. If the Butterfly flutters off into the ether I will just upload something else. No big deal.
    Thank you Adrian for looking after us and if you decide to put a "donate" button on the front page I would be more than willing to chip in. As small price to pay for such excellent company.
    allegheny1600 likes this.
  6. steve1

    steve1 Western Thunderer

    Like Rob R I have no idea if I'm using Gravater, so I'll see if Toffy disappears in time.

    Disconnect looks good but can't get it for my laptop, :(

  7. adrian

    adrian Flying Squad

    If you don't know whether you are using Gravatar then the chances are that you aren't. It's a service you have to sign up for Gravatar - Globally Recognized Avatars - you upload one image to the gravatar website and then all the different sites you use link to that one image based on your email address. So you would have had to make a conscious decision to use gravatar.

    If you really want to double check then under your user settings - select the Avatar option
    Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 20.44.14.png

    If it shows an image under the custom avatar then this is a locally stored avatar and you should be fine. If the image is blank then please upload an image.

    Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 20.44.39.png

    Finally I will double check peoples settings before I sever any links.