Differences between proprietary analytics software and Free software and open source analytics
Based on Wikipedia definition, "Proprietary software, also known as closed-source software, is non-free computer software for which the software's publisher or another person retains intellectual property rights—usually copyright of the source code, but sometimes patent rights.", to give you one example, Google Analytics, the most used analytics solution on public websites is a proprietary software. So to say:
- The use of Google Analytics is subject to conditions of use you accepted when you started to play with it. Out of the things to know from those conditions of use, you cannot use it to process personal data, you engage your own responsibility and accept to pay the Google lawyers fees if someone is suing Google for something bad you did with it, the credit card used to create a Google Ads account will be used if some fees have to be paid for the solution.
- You don't know how the program is written, so to say, you don't know if additional data are registered about your visitors and you don't know what Google is doing with those data.
- You don't really know where the data are stored, probably in the USA within Google data centers.
- Your data are sampled, so they are not all collected, mostly if you are getting a lot of traffic.
- You are subject to local laws which may not accept the use of Google Analytics without the consent of your end users.
- Google owns many different other services which may cross data with others representing a high risk for the privacy of your end users.
- You cannot modify the software to make it what you want, as a result you are always dependent from the Google team to issue a new service in order to provide what you need.
- You cannot export all the data of your Google Analytics account, so to say if you close your Google Analytics account, high chances that you will end up with no data or at least not the possibility to process your data as you were used to.
To make it simple using a proprietary solution is a pain and the more influential this player is the more trouble you are getting into.
Note though that proprietary solutions can have several advantages over Free software and open source solutions when those are not much developed and do not have much documentation. In general consumers tend to enjoy proprietary solutions as they offer a quick and easy way to use their service (mostly by reusing your data in exchange of a free service) and by hosting all their power calculation on the GAFAM web hosting platforms which result in high speed services.
By using a Free software and/or Open Source analytics solutions, here are the advantages you will get:
- You are the only responsible of what you are doing with the solution, so to say you are in control of everything.
- You can host the data wherever you want.
- You can modify the source code.
- You can justify everything.
- Local laws will tend to be more flexible.
By the way, note that there is a difference between Free software solutions and open source ones. A Free software is open source where an open source solution may not be a Free software. An open source solution may not carry all the freedoms hold by a Free software. The four freedoms of a Free software are:
- The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.