Apple responds to Spotlight Suggestions 'backlash,' says personal data collection limited

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2014
In response to a Monday report alleging Apple has started to automatically collect user search and location data through Spotlight Suggestions, the company has issued a statement clarifying the extent to which customer information is gathered and how it is used.




A report from The Washington Post painted the new implementation of Spotlight as a privacy blunder on the part of Apple, which publicly touts its commitment to keep customer data safe. The publication cited a "backlash" from the public, though it seems those comments may have been fueled by overzealous claims regarding the function's lack of privacy.

From The Post's report:
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.
Apple in turn issued a response to iMore detailing how the system actually works, which sounds much less intrusive than the description above. While certain bits of data are sent to Apple's servers, the information is not stored for purposes of identification and is ephemeral, lasting only for a 15-minute window before being recycled.
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.

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.
Apple goes on to remind users that they can easily opt out of Spotlight Suggestions, Bing and Location Services through System Preferences on Mac and Settings in iOS. These customization options are also noted -- with links to system settings -- by default when using Spotlight on Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems.

Users can also find an outline of how Apple uses customer data in a page on the company's website dedicated to privacy. CEO Tim Cook has been quite vocal on the subject of "customers as products," a notion exemplified by Google's increasingly aggressive attempts to monetize personal information. Cook consistently points out that Apple restricts its data collection activities to those that offer a better experience for the end user. Spotlight Suggestions appears to hold to those same standards.

The revamped Spotlight feature in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8 ties in results not only from local files and folders, but extends to the Web with Spotlight Suggestions, offering up information from Wikipedia, Microsoft's Bing search engine and Apple's first-party services like iTunes and the App Store. As noted above, users can opt out of these services in Spotlight settings, restricting the search tool to local drives, meaning no data is sent offsite.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 70
    Really don't get the hysteria about privacy. It's amazing how many people think that their lives are somehow interesting enough to be digitally tracked by Big Brother.
  • Reply 2 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nathanimal View Post



    Really don't get the hysteria about privacy. It's amazing how many people think that their lives are somehow interesting enough to be digitally tracked by Big Brother.



    must be as so many want to track everything we do.... 

  • Reply 3 of 70

    Another trumpeted up story to get clicks and desalinate Apple hate. Of course Apple's response proves that they once again they are concerned about privacy and did in fact design a pretty good system for users to be opted into by default. If what little this system does bothers you, opt out and shut up as it really isn't that bad.

  • Reply 4 of 70
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Dont like it? use google!!

    Hahaha!!
  • Reply 5 of 70
    heliahelia Posts: 170member
    Quote:

    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.


     

    Yup, that's what Google does, selling them to highest bid!

  • Reply 6 of 70
    froodfrood Posts: 771member

    Just curious but in iOS 8 did Apple remove the double negative, and place the Advertising ID tracker in the intuitive 'Privacy' settings or is it still buried 8 layers deep in an obscure location?

  • Reply 7 of 70
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    helia wrote: »
    Yup, that's what Google does, selling them to highest bid!

    Since Spotlight uses Bing it seems likely Apple has to work with Microsoft.
  • Reply 8 of 70
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,719member
    I remember when journalism was based on facts. Now it's click bait headlines. Thanks, WaPoo.
  • Reply 9 of 70
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,196member

    Wow, how could I missed this new "gate"? After reading up on it, it is, as expected, trumped up horse-shit with no privacy concerns.

     

    The same trolls bitching about this are probably the same who have uploaded their whole lives to Google services and Facebook. 

  • Reply 10 of 70
    jexusjexus Posts: 373member
    Quote:


     Apple goes on to remind users that they can easily opt out of Spotlight Suggestions, Bing and Location Services through System Preferences on Mac and Settings in iOS


    A feature like this should be opt in, not opt out.

  • Reply 11 of 70
    musomuso Posts: 28member
    Another crock of shit. Apple-Bad clickbait.
  • Reply 12 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by nathanimal View Post



    Really don't get the hysteria about privacy. It's amazing how many people think that their lives are somehow interesting enough to be digitally tracked by Big Brother.

     

    What shocks me more is people think they weren't tracking people of interest long before all of this.

  • Reply 13 of 70
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cali View Post



    Dont like it? use google!!



    Hahaha!!

    Well said!

  • Reply 14 of 70
    Originally Posted by nathanimal View Post

    Really don't get the hysteria about privacy. It's amazing how many people think that their lives are somehow interesting enough to be digitally tracked by Big Brother.

     

    Given that both the government and companies do this, legally and otherwise, educate yourself.

  • Reply 15 of 70
    My big take-away from this article is that Apple, viz. Cook isn't remaining silent on this horseshit story, but quickly refuting it. The new and improved Apple isn't remaining quiet and just laying there any more...
  • Reply 16 of 70

    I don't know about this...I have HandsOff installed, and with System Preferences/Security &Privacy/Privacy/Send diagnostic... and Share Crash Data... checkboxes turned off, CrashReporterSupportHelper tries sending stuff to internalcheck.apple.com and SubmitDiagInfo still tries sending stuff to internalcheck.apple.com and radarsubmissions.apple.com

  • Reply 17 of 70
    jexus wrote: »
    A feature like this should be opt in, not opt out.

    Location Services ARE opt-in. They are enabled during device set up. Making Spotlight Suggestions and web search opt in would just be tedious.

    This story is going to be hilarious to watch. Apple has already slapped it down, but I bet it gets through the tech blogosphere anyway and we get to watch as people who constantly extol the virtues of Google Now pervasively monitoring and predicting your every move bemoan Apple's "spying". Watching these people contort themselves into the shapes of pretzels to criticise Apple for things that they praise Google for doing far more aggressively is always funny.
  • Reply 18 of 70
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    helia wrote: »
    Yup, that's what Google does, selling them to highest bid!

    Speaking of Giggle, how much chunk of change do you think Spotlight will take from their search engine?

    There's a few things to consider:

    1. Giggle is available on any device. It's a website.
    Spotlight is only available on Apple devices.

    2. Spotlight is not a search engine like Googs is. Thats why it's partnered with Bing, heck I think it even has a Goog option.
  • Reply 19 of 70
    Who reads the Washington Post?
  • Reply 20 of 70
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,492member
    Much ado about nothing but in terms of my own use, I only want Spotlight to return my own files. As it is, I find Spotlight to be too broad. It should really prioritize results so that where the searched term appears in the filename, those results should be sorted first.

    If I want to search the web, I'll use the browser. I can't imagine any situation where I'd want to search both at the same time.
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