Privacy / Internet Access

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Privacy / Internet Access

Postby hwilly » Wed Sep 03, 2008 8:55 pm

I am considering using the OO programs, but being a real skeptic I don't believe anything can truely be "free".

So with that in mind, although I am sure there is a 20 page acceptance screen somewhere in the installation, can anyone tell me that once I start using OO to create and save documents that I won't someday find them posted on another website or begin receiving emails based on the content of my documents?

Is there any way that independently developed extensions could break the privacy rules of the basic software?

I guess the question is why do the OO programs access the Internet and do they transfer any document content in the process?

thanks
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Re: Privacy / Internet Access

Postby Villeroy » Wed Sep 03, 2008 9:39 pm

OOo is one single program to create office documents in a standardized file format. The open document format (ODF, ISO standard since 2005) does not impose any technical nor legal traps. There are other programs able to read and write the format (not by Microsoft, of course). Additionally it offers to load and save several other common file formats as well as possible. As a rather old-fashioned desktop application with roots in the 80ies (StarOffice) it works offline without the need to access any network unless you load something from a network. Somewhere in Tools>Options... you can turn off the automatic update-notification. Additionally you may set up your own proxy server for controlled internet access. A new major version 3.0 is due this month. Maintainance updates occur every 3 months or so.
OOo is absolutely free as in "free beer" as well as in "free speach". In short, you are free to use it for whatever you want unless you use (parts of) it's code base for your own non-free software product. You may even sell it as long as you offer to provide it's source code as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GNU_General_Public_License

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Is there any way that independently developed extensions could break the privacy rules of the basic software?

Yes, of course. Like with any other extensible software. But I would think this is rather unlikely if you download only the extensions you need from http://extensions.openoffice.org/ (the central place for extensions, all open source and free).

I guess the question is why do the OO programs access the Internet and do they transfer any document content in the process?

Don't mix up this desktop application with Google-Docs where the software runs on another machine.
Please, edit this topic's initial post and add "[Solved]" to the subject line if your problem has been solved.
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Re: Privacy / Internet Access

Postby acknak » Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:24 pm

Excellent question!

OOo only accesses the Internet to check for software updates, or when you specifically tell it to by accessing a remote document or other resource through a URL. You can turn off the update checking and it should never start an Internet connection unless you tell it to.

OOo is Open Source Software, not "free download" spyware. Since the full source code for OOo is legally required to be made available, you (or anyone else) can audit the source code to see exactly where and why and how OOo uses the Internet. Granted, such an audit would not be trivial, but the fact that it's out in the open means that "all the cards are on the table", so to speak.

Open source is the only way you can ever verify what the software does, or is capable of doing.

Conversely, how can you be sure it's safe to trust any software that doesn't allow you to audit the source code?
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Re: Privacy / Internet Access

Postby foxcole » Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:42 pm

acknak wrote:OOo only accesses the Internet to check for software updates, or when you specifically tell it to by accessing a remote document or other resource through a URL.

Right. If you copy content from the Web and paste it into your document, you might possibly be pasting a link to an image on the Internet, so OOo will attempt to retrieve the linked content if an Internet connection exists. (Many people don't realize that taking this type of content may be committing copyright infringement. I rarely recommend this method for that reason. Better to be safe than sorry.)

hwilly wrote:can anyone tell me that once I start using OO to create and save documents that I won't someday find them posted on another website or begin receiving emails based on the content of my documents?

No, no one can tell you that, but it's got nothing to do with OpenOffice. Anything you post online, you post at the risk of someone taking it. Depending on where you live, it's quite likely you retain full copyright to your posted material, but copyright laws never stopped plagiarism, even before the Internet came along. There is no software and no security that can guarantee your work won't end up somewhere else, because there is no way to prevent users from simply taking screen shots if they can't get the material any other way. The only way to protect your material is to not publish it at all.
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Re: Privacy / Internet Access

Postby acknak » Wed Sep 03, 2008 11:57 pm

Right. If you copy content from the Web and paste it into your document, you might possibly be pasting a link to an image on the Internet, so OOo will attempt to retrieve the linked content if an Internet connection exists. ...

Excellent points! Thanks for bringing that up. Also the copyright issue, although few people seem to take this one seriously.

You can easily, and without realizing it, create a need for OOo to start a network connection. This has happened quite often, judging by the number of times people ask about it.
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Re: Privacy / Internet Access

Postby Dave » Thu Sep 04, 2008 12:36 am

It thought, after over 30 years working with computers, using Bulletin Boards before the Internet became common fare and printers with dip-switches and one-line DOS commands, I was the one paranoaic about such things. Now I think I'm positively positive. The only reason you'd have to worry about a document you worked on being sent somewhere without your knowledge would be due to some pretty sophisticated spyware, not due to the behaviour of OpenOffice.

You've GOTTA learn to relax. Life it far too short to worry about every little thing. The big things in life will come along, and will need all your resources when that happens. OpenOffice is quite free, quite reliable, and quite safe. Any program can be "unsafe" if used unwisely, or if you don't do housekeeping on your computer, but, in and of itself, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when using OpenOffice any more than any other program in creation.

I still do NO banking through the internet.

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