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Apple: No, OS X Yosemite Spotlight Isn’t Spying On You

by Jacob Kleinman | October 21, 2014October 21, 2014 8:00 am PDT

There are a ton of new features packed into OS X Yosemite, but one of the most impressive is an updated version of Spotlight that’s beefed up with support for searching across the Web and your computer. Part of the reason it’s so powerful is that it can automatically search for things like local movie times or a nearby restaurant. How? Knowing your location. Of course, it didn’t take long for reports to surface that Apple was using Spotlight to spy on users, and now the company has responded with a statement defending its focus on privacy.

In an official response to iMore, Apple explains how it does everything possible to avoid tracking its customers or creating user profiles based on Spotlight searches:

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.

Apple also notes that you can opt out of both Spotlight Suggestions and Location Services, turning it back into a simple internal search engine. The company adds that Microsoft Bing, which provides information for Spotlight, can’t store your information either; you can also opt out of Bing if you want. Spotlight will still identify your location based on your IP address even if you disable Location Services, but the company says it’s restricted to the general region in an effort to provide relevant search results.

Apple explains more on its site, where it says Spotlight protects your information on both OS X Yosemite and iOS 8. Go ahead and disable those new features if you’re still uncomfortable, but don’t do it because you think Apple is spying on you.

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Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...

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