Opened 21 months ago

Last modified 14 months ago

#28493 needs_review defect

Stop forcibly enabling protected headers (aka. Memory Hole) by default

Reported by: intrigeri Owned by: sukhbir
Priority: Medium Milestone:
Component: Applications/TorBirdy Version:
Severity: Normal Keywords:
Cc: Actual Points:
Parent ID: Points:
Reviewer: Sponsor:


Let's move the discussion from here.

I have three new arguments in favour of not Torbirdy not touching this pref anymore:

  1. Enigmail now makes this feature visible to users in a better place

My understanding is that when #21880 was implemented, this feature was hidden behind a hidden pref so from the Torbirdy PoV, the simplest way to make it available to the masses was to do add UI in the Torbirdy prefs, but since most users won't go in the prefs to enable it, it was decided to enable it by default. Nowadays, things are very different: Enigmail itself prompts the user wrt. whether this pref should be enabled, so they get to choose; and it has UI to toggle it on/off. So it seems to me that the main reason that justifies why Torbirdy took ownership of this pref is gone.

Besides, having to go to the Torbirdy settings to change this pref is confusing: protected headers only make sense with encrypted email, so it makes sense that they're configurable via the Enigmail settings. Adding one more layer of indirection is bound to cause user confusion, and indeed, since 1+ year I've seen lots of Enigmail+Torbirdy users wondering why protected headers come back enabled after they've disabled it in the Enigmail prefs.

  1. The corresponding code in Torbirdy seems to be unmaintained

The corresponding pref was renamed in Enigmail and its type changed in Enigmail 2.0. It seems that Torbirdy was not updated accordingly.

  1. The strategy and timeline for protected headers adoption is unclear

Protected headers are currently a big pain for every email recipient, unless they use Thunderbird + Enigmail or K9. At Tails we would like to enable protected headers ASAP so our plan was to do some social media propaganda, announcing we would enable it at $DATE, and encouraging email client authors to support protected headers. But the Memory Hole spec is currently not good enough for us to point software developers to, and the timeline for updating it is unclear. For details, see and the email discussions linked from there. I also hope that at some point, the critical mass of users who send email with protected headers encourages email client authors to add such support, but this has not happened yet and I don't see it happening any time soon.

So all in all, my current position is that Torbirdy should stop interfering: it should let Enigmail do its thing (which it does pretty nicely) wrt. communicating to the user that this feature exists, and providing UI to toggle it on/off as desired.

Child Tickets

Attachments (1)

0001-Don-t-manage-Enigmail-protected-headers-aka.-Memory-.patch (5.2 KB) - added by intrigeri 19 months ago.

Download all attachments as: .zip

Change History (4)

comment:1 Changed 19 months ago by intrigeri

Status: newneeds_review

I've tested on current Debian sid and I confirm that the Torbirdy code I'm referring to here is a no-op: due to the Enigmail pref having been renamed, it won't forcibly enable protected headers, and the corresponding checkbox in the Torbirdy prefs has no effect. The attached (untested!) patch removes this code. Happy to test it before you review it, if you agree it's the best course of action. Setting status to "needs review", because next step is: the Torbirdy maintainers review my proposal.

comment:2 Changed 19 months ago by sukhbir

intrigeri, thank you for starting this discussion and the patch. I will go through it this week.

comment:3 in reply to:  2 Changed 14 months ago by intrigeri

Replying to sukhbir:

intrigeri, thank you for starting this discussion and the patch. I will go through it this week.

Any news on this front?

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