Yes, I actually read the Tableau Online EULA

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I signed up for Tableau Online this week.  To understand why this was sort of a big deal for me, let me give you some background.  First, I love Tableau.  I’ve been a heavy user for over 5 years now.  If you do any sort of data wrangling, I urge you to give it a try.  While Excel is and has always been a great tool for exploring data, Tableau is in a whole different league.  It allows you to view/experience/feel/flip/play with data in so many ways with so little effort.  That’s a huge advantage when you are trying to understand the story behind a data set.  The biggest tradeoff I’ve always claimed about Tableau is that it’s a great analyst tool (for exploring data), but it’s a poor enterprise data tool (for sharing data with others).  If you create some phenomenal visualizations, your sharing options are limited:

  • Share the Tableau workbook (but the other person needs the Tableau software or a free reader installed)
  • Send a screenshot or PDF (but that takes away all interactivity)
  • Share via Tableau Public (but the data are open to the word)
  • Share via Tableau Server (high cost of ownership both in dollars and effort)

So, if you’re in the scenario where you did some great analyses and want to share with 2 or 3 others, your options are severely limited.  That is, until Tableau Online came along.  What Tableau (smartly) did was to allow users to essentially buy single licences of a hosted Tableau Server instance.  Now, I don’t have to host the software and I pay $500/user/year for anyone who wants to access the visualizations.

So, I had a great use case for Tableau Online this and went ahead with buying some user licenses.  I bought three seats — two for Blue Canary employees to publish and one for a client to view.  the purchasing process was harmless enough, and I expected setup to go well since I was intimately familiar with Tableau Server.  When I initiated the setup process, I got the dreaded “click here to indicate that you agree to our terms and services” prompt.  As a steward of client data, I can’t do the iTunes thing and blindly check the box.  So, I started reading through the EULA before accepting.  Lo and behold, I got to section 2.6 and did a bit of a double take:

What the whatty what??!?  You can aggregate my data with other data?  Oh…you’ll anonymize it, so that’s much better.  Hold on…now the aggregated data “will be deemed Tableau Technology”?  Do I get to pay you five bucks so you can punch me in the stomach, too?  Et tu, Tableau?  Have you gone the way of the data dark side?  Has the IPO sullied your soul?  Say it ain’t so, Tableau?

Needless to say, this won’t fly in the world of academic data.  In addition to my love-lost tweet, I also called the sales rep.  To Tableau’s credit, I heard back through both channels.  The sales rep was honest and let me know that it was more of a Legal thing and not in his wheelhouse (as expected).  However, he did say he’d ping the Tableau Online product owner.  Concurrently, the person who I believe is the product owner replied to my tweet:

I get it.  Many folks get the ‘metadata’ thing thanks to the NSA kerfuffle from last year.  I’d do the same if I were Tableau.  How many rows/bytes of data are in the Tableau Online visualization?  How frequently are the data accessed?  What’s the latency/response time for queries?  All of that information can be accessed/owned by Tableau without ever ‘peeking’ at my data.  The problem is, the EULA wording is horribly unclear.

Tableau says that their Legal team is working on it, but there’s no estimate for when a revised EULA will be out:

So, where does my relationship stand with Tableau on this?  Better than it was when the issue first came up, but I’ll reserve my judgment until I see an updated EULA.  Thanks to the Tableau team for being responsive and I hope you’ll do the right thing and make the update so that I don’t have to find an alternate solution for my clients.

*** EDIT ***

Four days after I posted this blog entry, Tableau published an updated EULA with clarification (below).  Very cool of them to make the edit and to notify me.  Thanks for remaining the cool viz tool on the block, Tableau.

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