Apple May Want To Protect Your Phone Data From Snooping, But It's Snarfing Up Your Local Desktop Searches
from the oops dept
So, Apple got plenty of kudos from security and privacy folks in deciding to encrypt mobile phone data, but over on the desktop side, apparently the message hasn’t quite gotten through. Instead, it appears that the latest Mac operation system has the company automatically sending all of your desktop searches back to Apple. These aren’t internet searches, but just what you’re searching for locally.
The function is part of Spotlight search, which was updated with last week?s launch of new Mac computers and Apple?s latest operating system, Yosemite OS X, which also is available for download to owners of older machines. Once Yosemite is installed, users searching for files ? even on their own hard drives — have their locations, unique user IDs and search terms automatically sent to the company, keystroke by keystroke.
A pop-up window discloses the change, saying collecting the data helps provide results ?more relevant to you? as Spotlight also looks beyond individual computers to gather information across the Internet, much like popular search engines such as Google already do. But privacy advocates worry that users won?t understand what information is collected and how to stop the transmission of data to Apple, which happens by default.
And, if you think there’s no big deal in having this data collected, think again.
Testing by The Washington Post found that the locations revealed in Spotlight searches can be strikingly precise, placing a user within a particular building in Washington, D.C., even though the disclosure box on Spotlight refers to collecting ?your approximate location.”
In addition to sharing information with Apple, Spotlight also actively downloads relevant Web pages and Wikipedia articles about the topics covered by a search query, revealing potentially sensitive information about the user?s activities to other Web sites as well.
You can (and perhaps should) turn off this “feature” — and you can see how in some specific cases there may be beneficial reasons for individuals to share this information, the idea of having it on by default just seems like a privacy nightmare.