Spotlight searches are sent to Apple by default?

Discussion in 'OS X El Capitan (10.11)' started by fessen, Jan 5, 2016.

  1. fessen macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    #1
    Trying out Little Snitch with El Capitan, I have been noticing a few processes attempting to access the internet that I did not expect/understand. I do not use iTunes, for example, yet SpotlightNetHelper wants access to init.itunes.apple.com.
    I was also curious about why my mac wanted to access api-[...]-[...].smoot.apple.com.

    So digging into System Preferences > Spotlight > About Spotlight Suggestions & Privacy (which required jumping through a few hoops because with my display the default font was so tiny and there was no option to print the text) I found:

    "When you use Spotlight or Look Up, your search queries, the Spotlight Suggestions you select, and related usage data will be sent to Apple.
    Search results found on your Mac will not be sent.

    If you have Location Services on your Mac turned on, when you make a search query to Spotlight or use Look Up the location of your Mac at that time will be sent to Apple.

    Searches for common words and phrases will be forwarded from Apple to Microsoft's Bing search engine. These searches are not stored by Microsoft.

    To provide you with more relevant music and video suggestions, if your Mac can access music or video subscription services, then information such as the names of the subscription services and types of subscriptions may be sent to Apple. Your account name, number and password will not be sent to Apple.

    Location, search queries, and usage information sent to Apple will only be used by Apple to make Spotlight Suggestions more relevant and to improve other Apple products and services.

    If you do not want your Spotlight and Look Up search queries and Spotlight Suggestions usage data sent to Apple, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions. Simply deselect the checkbox for “Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look Up” and the checkbox for Bing Web Searches in the Search Results tab in the Spotlight preference pane found within System Preferences on your Mac. If you turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches, Spotlight will only search the contents of your Mac and Look Up will only search the dictionary on your Mac.

    ..."
    (^ paragraph formatting & highlighting added by me)

    Now, before reading the above, I had already deselected Location Services and "Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look up". I had also already deselected Bing Web Searches from the Spotlight Search Results options. However, I had not deselected Movies and Music, among other choices, from the Search Results options. So it seems Spotlight is set by default to automatically send queries to Apple, even if you are just trying to look for items on your local hard drive(s).

    That seems to me to potentially be a significant enough privacy issue that it should be made very clear to users rather than buried in a privacy statement somewhere that may or may not be noticed.

    I just upgraded from a much older version of OS X, so while the way that Spotlight operates may be old hat to many, for me it was a complete surprise.

    It's great that the search results found on your computer will not be sent to Apple. But isn't it potentially problematic that the names of files or of acquaintanes that you are searching for are being sent? And is this information being transmitted and stored (for however long it is stored) in an encrypted format?
     
  2. SuperHamster macrumors member

    SuperHamster

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2015
    Location:
    Cambridge
    #2
    Yup, been working like this at least since OS X Yosemite. I had an attack of paranoia myself, and tried turning off these searches (which were also consuming quite a bit of CPU/battery power at the time), some time ago, and have a fuzzy recollection of it to be unexpectedly difficult to do, there were some non-intuitive settings involved.
     
  3. KALLT macrumors 601

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2008
    #3
    It is unfortunately the new status quo. Windows 10, OS X and Ubuntu all do this by default. At least in the latter cases, it is trivial to turn it off.

    Spotlight connects to itunes.apple.com to incorporate iTunes media in search results and the lookup feature.

    Little Snitch is both a godsend and a curse. You will become paranoid once you realise that pretty much every application and many helper utilities are connecting to the web constantly, often to obscure hostnames. It would help a lot if Apple would use a consistent or predictable naming scheme for these hostnames, or post an explanatory note on their website.
     
  4. Ebenezum macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2015
    #4
    I agree, at the minimum Apple should ask user for permission before search query is send. Even better would be if such feature is disabled by default and has to be turned on by the user.

    I send bug report to Apple when Yosemite introduced this idiotic change but since there has been no change it looks like its time for another bug report.

    Given Apples previous stance on privacy including this kind of idiocy is very troubling... :(
     
  5. Rhobes macrumors 6502

    Rhobes

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Location:
    Missoula,MT
    #5
    Hello All-

    I have read the replies to this point. I also had no idea about any of this. I have Mavs and plan to step up to 10.11 and am currently scanning all the info on El Capitan before commiting. Like the majority of us, I'm shocked at this thread. I have nothing to hide but privacy seems to be non existent, it's bad enough our freedoms are lost on a daily basis these days but Apple and all those they sell info to don't need my info!

    Could someone tell me if it's possible to disable Spotlight and Little Snitch (never heard of it)? Are there other things that should be disabled if your the paranoid type?

    I would be very grateful if viewers in the know could post how to disable these applications in a simplistic way, I bet many people viewing this thread would appreciate it also. Thanks!
     
  6. fessen thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2011
    #6
    No need to disable Little Snitch. It's a utility app that you can optionally install (costs about $35). It monitors internet connections from and to your computer, and lets you block connections if you choose. It's kind of challenging to use because it's often difficult determining which of those connections are essential or highly advisable vs which can be safely blocked.
     
  7. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland
    #7


    Go to System Preferences/Spotlight and uncheck "Spotlight Suggestions" (and anything else you don't want included). No need to disable the whole application.

    As above, if you have bought Little Snitch, leave it on, if you haven't then its not an issue.
     
  8. Rhobes macrumors 6502

    Rhobes

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Location:
    Missoula,MT
    #8
    Thanks Fessen & Simonsi! I appreciate your responses...
     
  9. simonsi macrumors 601

    simonsi

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Auckland

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