Privacy concerns with macOS Sierra...

Crunch

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 26, 2008
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Crazy L.A.
It's very unusual for me to still be on a previous version of OS X. I'm usually permanently on-board with every new iteration of OS X at beta 3 at the latest...until now.

It mostly has to do with privacy (i.e. spying) in my case. I'm not sure I like the idea of populating iCloud with my Documents folder. Nor do I like the continued "dumbing down" of OS X by way of iOS-ificiation and deprecating formerly useful apps like Disk Utility.

Is macOS slowly going the way of Windows in the (lack of) privacy department? Windows 10's built-in spy engines are a big controversy, but other companies are moving towards a similar agenda.

Although Apple didn't sign on to the PRISM surveillance program until years after Microsoft, Facebook, and Google did, they did so eventually, and the same will be true here as well, in my opinion.

What do you guys think about this "differential privacy" on Sierra? Am I being paranoid? Where do you see macOS going?

I'm just sick of the efforts of being controlled every time I turn around.
 

hallux

macrumors 68030
Apr 25, 2012
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There's absolutely ZERO need to have your Documents on iCloud. In fact, I'm on Sierra and still haven't even upgraded to iCloud Drive and my Mac is still 100% functional.
 

Crunch

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 26, 2008
701
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Crazy L.A.
There's absolutely ZERO need to have your Documents on iCloud. In fact, I'm on Sierra and still haven't even upgraded to iCloud Drive and my Mac is still 100% functional.
How's it running for you? What specific improvements/features can you point to that you are using yourself?

Having said that, I don't need new features to be all over a new OS if it's noticeably faster. How does Sierra stack up here?
 

hallux

macrumors 68030
Apr 25, 2012
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Sierra is working fine on my 2012. The log in from sleep seems a LITTLE sluggish, but it behaves as expected once logged in. There is nothing Sierra-specific that I utilize on either of my Macs, I'm mostly web browsing, email, chat and the occasional (now more frequent) Steam game and VM use.
 

KALLT

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2008
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You can opt out of Spotlight Suggestions and Bing search results in System Preferences → Spotlight and Safari settings → Search. During system setup, it will ask you whether you want to allow diagnostics to be sent, you can disable this at any time in System Preferences → Privacy → Diagnostics. iCloud is completely optional (although Apple sneakily enables everything when you log into iCloud during setup, unfortunately). Siri is optional as well.

Sierra actually improved the UI for the things I just mentioned, they were a bit scattered before. Overall this is a far cry from what Microsoft is doing.
 
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stockscalper

macrumors 6502a
Aug 1, 2003
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Area 51
You can opt out of Spotlight Suggestions and Bing search results in System Preferences → Spotlight and Safari settings → Search. During system setup, it will ask you whether you want to allow diagnostics to be sent, you can disable this at any time in System Preferences → Privacy → Diagnostics. iCloud is completely optional (although Apple sneakily enables everything when you log into iCloud during setup, unfortunately). Siri is optional as well.

Sierra actually improved the UI for the things I just mentioned, they were a bit scattered before. Overall this is a far cry from what Microsoft is doing.
Actually, in Windows 10 in the Security setting you have a number of selections where you can turn off sending data to Microsoft of every kind. Are you saying they're still collecting data when everything is turned off? That would be scary.

On the other hand, with the limited selection you have with submitting data to Apple I hope they're not collecting info behind the scenes.
 

Ebenezum

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2015
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I also don't like the direction Apple has been heading with Privacy.

I haven't tested Sierra enough to be certain but while most of new features can be disabled it seems not all of them will be completely disabled.

Even with iCloud disabled that still leaves some iCloud processes running in the background. Also I'm wondering how well Apple respect users choices such as disabling options like "Spotlight Suggestions" in Spotlight preferences. At least in Yosemite and El Capitan that didn't completely stop the sending of information to Apple.
 

KALLT

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2008
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I also don't like the direction Apple has been heading with Privacy.

I haven't tested Sierra enough to be certain but while most of new features can be disabled it seems not all of them will be completely disabled.

Even with iCloud disabled that still leaves some iCloud processes running in the background. Also I'm wondering how well Apple respect users choices such as disabling options like "Spotlight Suggestions" in Spotlight preferences. At least in Yosemite and El Capitan that didn't completely stop the sending of information to Apple.
Can you give any examples/specifics for these claims?
 

0004838

Suspended
Oct 1, 2014
194
63
Actually, in Windows 10 in the Security setting you have a number of selections where you can turn off sending data to Microsoft of every kind. Are you saying they're still collecting data when everything is turned off? That would be scary.
There is no debate about whether MS are still collecting data despite using all available settings to disable such things: they definitely are.
One of the assumptions made by various privacy advocates and journalists, including me, is that third-party utilities would be able to shut down the tracking Microsoft deployed in Windows 10. To some degree, that’s already happened, but there are certain new “features” of Windows 10 that can’t be blocked by any OS-level tweaks, including the hosts file. The updates listed above connect to vortex-win.data.microsoft.com and settings-win.data.microsoft.com. These addresses are hard-coded to bypass the hosts file and cannot be prevented from connecting.
(ExtremeTech)
Telemetry data is collected by Microsoft. This includes installed software, configuration data and network and connection data. While some of it can be turned off in the Settings, not all can.
(GHacks)
This is the tip of the iceberg. See the GHacks link for the skinny on what a Win10 user has to do to disable only what they can of MS's data collection - and they stopped updating it in Sept 2015.
 

KALLT

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2008
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Not to mention, Microsoft likes to defer the privacy options in the system setup, e.g. by coaxing the user to use the ‘express settings’ (= everything enabled) and by making the settings screens as boring as possible. I also had to go through all of this again when I upgraded to the Anniversary update on one of my laptop.

I’ve said it elsewhere, but Windows 10 is a bureaucratic mess, a machinery that works against giving you an easy way to manage the system. The setup on OS X is also not pretty, but at least Apple insists on walking you through each screen separately and explains what it wants. Managing settings on OS X could not be easier with System Preferences and fairly consistent application menus in the menu bar.
 

rshrugged

macrumors 6502a
Oct 11, 2015
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[...]What do you guys think about this "differential privacy" on Sierra? Am I being paranoid? Where do you see macOS going?[...]
I don't think you're being paranoid at all. It sounds that Apple's "differential privacy" will gather more user information. The claim, of course, is that it will be obfuscated in such a way as to make the info anonymous. In character, Apple was tight lipped about its methodologies.

After Apple's WWDC announcement, I searched for information and found an interesting blog post, by Bruce Schneier. The post, responses and links are informative, even though they don't lead to any definitive conclusions about Apple's "differential privacy" method or aim.

https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2016/06/apples_differen.html

I don't know if Apple's been more forthcoming about the subject (or that more's been discovered elsewhere about it) since the WWDC announcement. I haven't kept up with things because for now, I'm happy with El Capitan.

Edited to fix link.
 
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Ebenezum

macrumors 6502a
Mar 31, 2015
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Can you give any examples/specifics for these claims?
Examples can be found on these documents:

https://github.com/drduh/macOS-Security-and-Privacy-Guide
https://github.com/fix-macosx/yosemite-phone-home

My observation with Little Snitch and Activity Monitor show that data is send to Apple in Yosemite and El Capitan even when options are unselected in System Preferences and Safari.

I'm not saying this is anywhere Windows 10 level but regardless I am not impressed.
 

Ender17

macrumors regular
Aug 3, 2005
153
33
You can opt out of Spotlight Suggestions and Bing search results in System Preferences → Spotlight and Safari settings → Search. During system setup, it will ask you whether you want to allow diagnostics to be sent, you can disable this at any time in System Preferences → Privacy → Diagnostics. iCloud is completely optional (although Apple sneakily enables everything when you log into iCloud during setup, unfortunately). Siri is optional as well.

Sierra actually improved the UI for the things I just mentioned, they were a bit scattered before. Overall this is a far cry from what Microsoft is doing.
Thanks for the info.
 

Queen6

macrumors 604
I use both OS X and Windows 10, if you have privacy concerns, you should consider of one the flavours of Unix or Linux. Both Apple and Microsoft harvest user data, the latter we know a little more about, the mechanisms and tools that exist to shut down telemetry.

I don't buy Tim & Co for one second, Apple have been obviously scooping up user data since day one, courtesy of iPhone. What they do with the same data is entirely another matter, and being one of the very least transparent tech companies they give me absolutely no reason to trust them. Much of the reason to harvest user data is improve the service and or monetise it, the bigger questions what exactly are they harvesting?

I know as of 10.11 OS X definitely sends far more data to Apple`s servers, macOS Sierra I have not been bothered to look at, with all Mac`s remaining on 10.10.5. Windows 10 is what it is, and Microsoft are not hiding the facts to deeply as long as your willing to read a little, with ever more tools like SpyBot AntiBeacon to shutdown telemetry sent to Microsoft.

If Apple truly respected your personal data it would not be adding ever more services to harvest the same. What I do think is that both companies are being somewhat disingenuous as in the majority of circumstance the user is opted in by default.

Such services/applications that harvest user data should be stripped from the core OS and be offered as optional downloadable modules for those that believe they may benefit, equally that will never happen unless they are compelled by a court of law, which is equally unlikely to occur given recent disclosures of how much personal information/data is systematically collected globally by governments & security agencies...

Ultimately I need to work in both OS X & Windows 10, so have to live with it so to speak. The features I have turned on in both operating systems bring me benefit, equally I am aware that an aspect of data may be collected, with some aspects of data collection being limited or shutdown.

An interesting subject...

Q-6
 
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rnbwd

macrumors regular
Jul 6, 2015
112
38
Seattle
Apple should focus much more effort on security and verifying the integrity of the information. Internally they seem privacy orientented. But when it comes to malware hacking and mimt attacks? They just.. pretend it doesn't exist / don't have enough info to verify it occurred because their privacy politicy prevents them from knowing whether or not your privacy was stolen from a 3rd party
 
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KALLT

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2008
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Please, do not fall under the mistaken assumption that Unix or Linux systems are above this. Ubuntu has been criticised for the same practice. Many distributions come packed with third-party software that phone home as well. Integration with services is in high demand even there, as users seek an easy setup and cross-platform experience. This is simply a consequence of today’s multi-device usage and interconnected services. On OS X, every Cocoa application can tap into many shared services to give the user a consistent experience.

There are questionable connections, but there are also many that are seemingly inevitable in sophisticated and modern operating systems. Do not dismiss all of them outright.
 

Crunch

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 26, 2008
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Let's be honest and let me not exaggerate:

All major tech companies are in cahoots with governments around the world for the express purpose of sponging up data from its various user bases in order to control them. Period.

All we can hope for is mitigation.

@Queen6: I've held off from upgrading to Sierra and I wonder if downgrading from El Capitan to Yosemite would be a good idea?

@KALLT: I agree with your Linux comment. Plus, I love Macs far too much to make a radical switch like that for the (likely) illusion of fewer intrusions.

Also, what VPN would be best for privacy on this Cyber Monday, I wonder?
 

Queen6

macrumors 604
Let's be honest and let me not exaggerate:

All major tech companies are in cahoots with governments around the world for the express purpose of sponging up data from its various user bases in order to control them. Period.

All we can hope for is mitigation.

@Queen6: I've held off from upgrading to Sierra and I wonder if downgrading from El Capitan to Yosemite would be a good idea?

@KALLT: I agree with your Linux comment. Plus, I love Macs far too much to make a radical switch like that for the (likely) illusion of fewer intrusions.

Also, what VPN would be best for privacy on this Cyber Monday, I wonder?
I can only speak from my own observations that 10.11 is far more talkative with Apple`s servers. By introducing Siri to OS X effectively Apple, same as Microsoft need to gather a greater level of personal information for the AI to be effective. IMHO Microsoft took a lot flack for this across the tech press, equally their motives are clear. Apple is just too locked down with very little being documented/disclosed. Apple`s CEO can stand there all day reassuring about privacy, however without any level of transparency I am far less trusting of Apple.

Tim Cook saying trust me is meaningless as Apple`s only consideration is $$$$...

Q-6
 
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Crunch

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Jun 26, 2008
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Crazy L.A.
I can only speak from my own observations that 10.11 is far more talkative with Apple`s servers. By introducing Siri to OS X effectively Apple, same as Microsoft need to gather a greater level of personal information for the AI to be effective. IMHO Microsoft took a lot flack for this across the tech press, equally their motives are clear. Apple is just too locked down with very little being documented/disclosed. Apple`s CEO can stand there all day reassuring about privacy, however without any level of transparency I am far less trusting of Apple.

Tim Cook saying trust me is meaningless as Apple`s only consideration is $$$$...

Q-6
Agreed. Again, I'm under no illusion that I can trust Apple as far as I can throw it. That said, however, certain whistleblowers have noted that iOS on the mobile side and OS X on the PC side is still the least of all evils, which may not be saying much, considering the extent to which some of the largest corporations collude behind the scenes, and not just with each other, but with governments.

Thank you as well for the insight on 10.11. I have still not upgraded to 10.12, and I doubt I ever will.

Should I downgrade to 10.10 Yosemite, I wonder? I hate to have think this way, but it's getting bad.
 
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Queen6

macrumors 604
Agreed. Again, I'm under no illusion that I can trust Apple as far as I can throw it. That said, however, certain whistleblowers have noted that iOS on the mobile side and OS X on the PC side is still the least of all evils, which may not be saying much, considering the extent to which some of the largest corporations collude behind the scenes, and not just with each other, but with governments.

Thank you as well for the insight on 10.11. I have still not upgraded to 10.12, and I doubt I ever will.

Should I downgrade to 10.10 Yosemite, I wonder? I hate to have think this way, but it's getting bad.
I will very likely not pass 10.10.5 between the OS and Apple`s asinine obsession with ever thinner, I am pretty much out of Apple as of 2016. I will just deal with Windows 10 and silence it, "better the devil you know" in this case.

Disappointing yes Apple`s direction is so far off the mark in 2016 it`s no longer funny, I really want to look at VR and Apple seems incapable of even producing a desktop that can accomplish this, let alone a notebook, with everything being compromised for the sake of ever thinner. Add in that Apple is obvious as a "door knob" monetising user data, even came up in a recent "class action" case that Apple was selling user data to Google, which neatly stayed off the "radar" I for one have absolutely "no trust" with Apple, just another greed driven company.

I get it, it`s a function of business and serious money, equally I don't appreciate Tim Cook going on his privacy crusade, while Apple is in bed with Google, at least Microsoft is upfront about it`s actions. Apple is far too clandestine for my liking, and Apple only serves itself, with the customer being way down the list...

Q-6
 
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jdw13

macrumors member
Oct 2, 2015
47
5
Boston, Maine, Chile
Yes, one may choose to not sync the Documents folder to the Cloud. Seems to me that it would have been better to allow the user to choose which folder(s) to sync and to opt out of sync-ing the Desktop separately. Since I do like to sync non-sensitive documents across my machines, and don't like saving directly to the cloud, I simply created a "local_Documents" folder for those that I did not want to sync.
Since many programs want to save to Documents by default, it would be more secure if the synced folder would not be "Documents."
 
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rmpbklyn

macrumors member
Oct 25, 2015
48
8
There's absolutely ZERO need to have your Documents on iCloud. In fact, I'm on Sierra and still haven't even upgraded to iCloud Drive and my Mac is still 100% functional.
same, i save to external harddrive. if concerns can put in a safe deposit in bank.
 

jdw13

macrumors member
Oct 2, 2015
47
5
Boston, Maine, Chile
If you actively use more than one computer, (like a desktop and a laptop) then having Documents in the iCloud is a convenient way to keep your work in sync. (In my case they are all backed-up with both Time Machine to an external HD and my main machine also uses CCC to yet another HD for selected folders)