Apple Addresses Privacy Concerns Over Spotlight in OS X Yosemite

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Apple has issued a statement addressing privacy concerns over the new Spotlight in OS X Yosemite.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that “Once Yosemite is installed, users searching for files – even on their own hard drives — have their locations, unique identifying codes and search terms automatically sent to the company, keystroke by keystroke. The same is true for devices using Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8.”

Select information is sent to Apple to enable the new Spotlight Suggestions feature. iMore obtained Apple’s statement on the matter.


“We are absolutely committed to protecting our users’ privacy and have built privacy right into our products,” Apple told iMore. “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.”

Apple also offers information on Spotlight security on its online privacy page.

With iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, searching with Spotlight now goes beyond your device to give you suggestions from sources like Wikipedia, the iTunes Store, and Maps. Before it answers, Spotlight considers things like context and location while protecting your privacy by using an anonymous identifier that refreshes every 15 minutes. You can always opt out of Suggestions and continue to use Spotlight solely for local search on your device. You are also free to opt out of having Spotlight use Location Services any time you want. If you opt out, Spotlight will still use your IP address to determine a general location to make your searches more relevant. Unlike our competitors, we don’t use a persistent personal identifier to tie your searches to you in order to build a profile based on your search history. We also place restrictions on our partners so they don’t create a long-term trail of identifiable searches by you or from your device.

If you would still like to, you can deselect the checkboxes for both Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches in the Search Results tab in the Spotlight preference pane found within System Preferences on your Mac.

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