Privacy: A LibreOffice advantage

Most software companies track you and collect data about you. They no longer deliver their applications through hard media, such as CDs and USB sticks, but users have to download them and create accounts. This is widely known.

Microsoft jumped on this bandwagon about 10 years ago when it introduced Office 365, a set of services combined with its traditional office applications. A Microsoft account is required to download the applications.

Users can no longer visit a store, pay cash for a copy with a DVD, install it on their computers and simply register the software.

LibreOffice takes a different approach. Users can obtain a copy of the suite and install it on as many computers as desired. This is because it is Free and Open-source Software (FOSS).

The FOSS nature of LibreOffice protects its users’ privacy and anonymity in ways that Office does not.

Microsoft

Microsoft has always limited the number of computers it allows you to install on, and it has always used the internet to check and verify these copies.

This reduces the amount of piracy, but through a Microsoft account, the software giant has a greater ability to collect data about its users. The privacy policy linked to in the Help ribbon of its applications state that it collects data. One reason it gives is to improve and develop its products.

Data is collected through interactions with the company and through its products. Most software companies operate this way.

Microsoft also offers a version of its suite that you pay for once and can use it on one Mac or Windows 10 machine. It, however, also needs to be downloaded to install it. Even if it is purchased from a store, all the packaging contains is a keycard that gives you access to the download.

This is a version of Office that was designed for people who don’t want to pay a monthly or annual fee. It does not let them get out of needing a Microsoft account, however.

LibreOffice

The Document Foundation, the organization behind LibreOffice, and other FOSS developers take a different approach. There are no restrictions on how many computers a user installs it on and no need to register the software.

Interestingly enough, privacy and anonymity come with this freedom. Users simply obtain a copy of it and use it. They can either download it from libreoffice.org, install it from a DVD or USB stick they purchased or were given, or download it from another Website. One copy of installation file can be used to install LibreOffice on every computer in the office.

There is even a version that you can install on a USB stick and take computer to computer without installing it.

The Document Foundation doesn’t really know who is using its applications. The number of users can only be estimated. Inability to accurately track users, increases their privacy.

While The Document Foundation leaves you alone for the most part, its application communicate with the organization’s servers some what. They inform you when an update is available. This notification, however, can be deactived through the Options window.
1. Click Tools (LibreOffice menu in Mac)
2. Click the Options item (Preferences in Mac)
3. Click the Online Updates tab
4. Change the settings in the tab.

The Check for updates item the Help menu checks for the update. However, it directs you to libreoffice.org to download the latest version. This is much less invasive than the automatic downloads that Office 365 requires.

In the Help menu, there is also an item for getting help online. Clicking this sends you to the ask.libreoffice.org Website in your default browser. This is much less direct than the Contact support in Office 365.

Conclusion

This probably will not be a game changer. To many the collaborative tools that Office 365 offers its users makes LibreOffice an inferior product. Individuals and businesses around the world have continually returned to Microsoft for their office suite needs, regardless of what the company does.

LibreOffice has gained users over the years. Its advantages over Office are its flexibility and freedom of use it gives to users. These allow it to be used on any desktop computer equally. A side effect of this is increased privacy and anonymity. These are values that still top the list of importance for many users.

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