Petition targets Apple over ‘spyware’ in OS X Yosemite

Spotlight results spark privacy concerns

Apple should remove “spyware” from its new Yosemite release of OS X, according to an online petition that has received 14,450 signatures as of early Thursday afternoon.

The petition’s complaints center on the Spotlight feature of Yosemite. Spotlight is a unified search service that lets users search everything from their own file structure to their installed apps, web results and a lot more besides. The petitioners say that Spotlight’s default settings, in Yosemite, automatically transmit location data and search terms to Apple, Microsoft “and other third parties.”

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“Older operating systems respected user privacy by default,” the petition reads. “Tracking all search terms and location information is creepy and unnecessary considering Apple's successful track record.”

Apple had not responded to requests for comment by the time this article was published.

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff technologist Jeremy Gillula said that Apple risks its reputation for being attentive to its users’ privacy needs with this type of tracking.

“It’s very disappointing to see Apple, which has claimed it’s in the business of selling its customers great devices and not selling their data, make such a terrible decision for their users’ privacy,” he told Network World. “We wholeheartedly agree that Apple should not be tracking its users’ Spotlight search queries by default.”

The issue is similar to the furor over a shopping lens feature in previous versions of Ubuntu, the popular desktop Linux distribution. That feature sent some search results, via an API, to Amazon. It was widely criticized by users and privacy watchdogs, and developer Canonical has promised changes in future versions of its Unity interface.

This story, "Petition targets Apple over ‘spyware’ in OS X Yosemite" was originally published by Network World.


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