Apple Collecting Spotlight Search Terms – How to stop it.

osx_yopsemite_spotlightSome big security concerns arose from Apple users, as they upgraded to the latest desktop version of OS X; Yosemite. The new OS integrates a feature that has been around for quite a while, known as Spotlight. When pressing Command+Space bar, OSX brings up a search box for you to do a variety of things. This search tool was heavily upgraded with more direct access to your data & more importantly, the World Wide Web.

You can search now search for movies and music, for example, and integrates iTunes purchases and other means of related content. For this to work, tracking of your searches is required. Now, this isn’t anything new when it comes to search engines and advertisement, but with this feature being integrated into the desktop, many users have become uneasy knowing that everything they search on their local mac is being compressed & sent to Apple’s remote servers.

Apple claims in a statement that this isn’t anything new & Google has been doing this for quite some time. Additionally stating that this is the way Apple can provide tailored and more direct results to you as user. Apple has advised it doesn’t collect any personal information, as far as user account name etc. but does track some user information by default, such as locations. In order to disable some tracking options, the user must enter the settings menu of Spotlight, manually disable information they don’t wish to share with Apple. Inexperienced, or unaware users will often leave these tracking settings on default.

This does mean you can turn off all of the “snooping” by accessing your Spotlight settings in system preferences & disabling the appropriate check-box. Regarding the concerns, Apple released a full statement which be read below:

“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.

Now overall this may not be a big concern to many users & yes it’s certainly nothing new. For more information on how Apple collects data, they released a detailed report here. Many popular sites Google, Facebook, and so on do this through browser technology known as tracking cookies. This is why we see ads regarding products we recently searched and so on. Some will argue this is better for delivering a more tailored experience while others see it as a violation of privacy. That stance is entirely dependent on you as an individual.

Renee Biana

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