Secret data collection by private technology companies has become a bone of contention between web users around the globe and technology giants. The case where Google was storing complete data of search terms entered by users on the website had the public up in arms against violation of their privacy by tech companies without seeking their consent first. Once again a renowned company recently came under fire for storing user data in its servers. Apple’s operating system OS X Yosemite’s desktop search tool Spotlight uploads user search terms by default to Apple’s remote servers. Fortunately, the option can be deactivated in a few simple steps that will allow you the kind of privacy that you wish to enjoy.
The new feature introduced by Apple stores search terms in Spotlight from iTunes, the App Store, and the web. It works like this – when a user enables “Location Services” on a Mac, the information related to the location of the computer is relayed to Apple servers. Another cause of concern for Apple fans was the revelation that the search terms are also shared with Microsoft’s Bing search engine.
Runa Sandvik, a developer for the Freedom of the Press Foundation and a former developer for the Tor software, said that Apple has no right to collect all private search term results for desktop searches. She was also quick to mention that Microsoft receives information that is associated with common search terms and doesn’t gather very personal user information. Regarding the privacy concerns of people, she said, “For Apple to automatically learn about your location and your search terms when you’re using your computer normally isn’t something a lot of people would approve of if they knew about it.”
One way to deal with this problem is to switch off Yosemite’s search options. You can follow the steps as follows: Go to Mac OS X’s System Preferences > “Spotlight” functions > “Search Results” > Disable “Spotlight Suggestions”, “Bookmarks and History” > disable “Bing Web Searches”.
If you’re using Safari then follow these steps: Disable “Spotlight Suggestions” function in the browser under “Preferences” and “Search” options. Once you’ve done this, the terms that you type into your device would not be sent back to Apple by default.
Another simple method to disable Yosemite’s search options has been made public by a developer, named Landon Fuller. He developed a code, called Fix-MacOSX, and spread it amon random people. Once downloaded, the code disables all processes of Mac OS X which are responsible for invading user privacy.
Experts associated with the tech industry are making efforts to come up with ways to empower the public to fight for their right to privacy, but some of them believe that usually people don’t really care much about changing the default settings in their computers. By doing so, these people are easily making available their personal information to the law enforcing agencies and other people. Privacy advocates think that things can get worse for people if their personal information falls into the wrong hands.
Since the public was offended by Apple’s approach in this case, they started questioning the utility of the default data collection settings. Later an Apple spokesperson issued the following statement to gain public trust on this important issue:
“We are absolutely committed to protecting our users’ privacy and have built privacy right into our products. For Spotlight Suggestions we minimize the amount of information sent to Apple. Apple doesn’t retain IP addresses from users’ devices. Spotlight blurs the location on the device so it never sends an exact location to Apple. Spotlight doesn’t use a persistent identifier, so a user’s search history can’t be created by Apple or anyone else. Apple devices only use a temporary anonymous session ID for a 15-minute period before the ID is discarded.
We also worked closely with Microsoft to protect our users’ privacy. Apple forwards only commonly searched terms and only city-level location information to Bing. Microsoft does not store search queries or receive users’ IP addresses.
You can also easily opt out of Spotlight Suggestions, Bing or Location Services for Spotlight.”
One cannot entirely rule out the possibility of such issues rising up in the future as well. The most that users can do is to secure their devices on their own and drop their lazy attitude if they are actually concerned about protecting their privacy.
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