Last week, a speech recognition developer found a potential exploit in the Chrome web browser that could possibly let malicious web sites activate your Mac’s microphone and listen in on any sounds your mic might pick up around you. Even if you’re not actively using your computer, the mic could be active and conversations, meetings, and phone calls could potentially be recorded or listened in on.
Luckily, there’s a way to keep this from happening, because–however remote the possibility–it’s always a good idea to keep your private information, including real-world conversations, private.
Of course, if you don’t use the Chrome browser at all, this won’t apply to you.
If you want to be sure your data is secure on your Mac, Apple has provided an easy way to do so. They’ve created File Vault, accessed via the System Preferences, to encrypt your startup drive with some heavy duty file security.
You’ll need OS X Lion or later, and you’ll have to have an OS X Recovery partition on your drive. This last bit is typically installed on newer Macs, anyway, but to test it out, reboot your Mac and hold the Command-R key down. If you see an OS X Recovery screen, you’re good to go.
Setting up FileVault is even easier than that. Just launch System Preferences and click on Security & Privacy to get started.
When you browse the web with mobile Safari, you’ll come across sites that ask you to create a login, and that usually requires a password.
You can save your passwords in mobile Safari automatically, but there are some sites that request passwords not be saved. There’s a workaround, though, if you feel like you should be able to save whatever passwords you darn well please, and it’s buried in the Settings app.
The web is full of all kinds of links, both clearly labeled ones as well as links with varying degrees of treacherousness (Rick Roll, we’re looking at you). While finding yourself sent to a video of Rick Astley may be fairly innocuous, there are times when you’re on the web and you come across a link that could possibly do something more serious.
That’s where the mobile web browsers in iOS 7 come in. I’ve tried this trick in both Safari and Chrome, but there may be other, less popular browsers that do the same thing: your mileage may vary.
DeGeo is an app that removes the location data from your photos before sharing them, while leaving non-location metadata intact. As someone who switches off the location option in Instagram whenever I’m at my home or a friend’s home, I’m totally into this $1 data stripper.
While other web browsers exist and thrive on iOS, Safari is the one Apple includes with it’s iOS system software, and it’s probably the one most of us use often, no small thanks to the fact that it’s integrated at the system level. Every click through, unless third-party apps (like Mailbox) allow something different, takes us to Safari as our main browser.
Therefore, if you’re looking for ways to protect more of your privacy, you’ll want to enable the Do Not Track feature in mobile Safari, as well as possibly block cookies, which are bits of code that store your preferences on website servers for return visits.
There are few tech terms more loaded than “user privacy” here in 2013.
Back in January Cult of Mac reported that Apple had lost its spot on a list of the 20 most trusted companies when it comes to user information. That was long before the revelations of Edward Snowden and PRISMgate (the subject of an entire recent issue of our Newsstand magazine), which made everyone super-jumpy about data collection and what it means for personal liberties.
This week’s edition of Cult of Mac Magazine explores the issue of privacy in the PRISM age. Whether you have anything to hide or not, awareness of what data you are sending out and who can see it as always a good thing.
We’ve got great how-tos to about keeping things locked down in your email, browser, instant messaging and backups as well as what to know about the key privacy settings in iOS 7 and how to cover your privates with social media apps.
For those of you who have, ahem, things to hide from a snooping spouse, roommate or parent, we’ve also got you covered.
And if you think you’re an open book, we talk to an artist who broadcast his life from his iPhone screen to an open web page for an entire year. He tells us what happens when your wife gets in the act and your mother always knows what you’re up to.
Publisher Leander Kahney discusses his foray into the private lives of Apple designers while researching his latest book and our exclusive Apple Genius column discusses drinking on the job and vintage Macs.
Chart Source: EFF.org Note: Companies are listed in alphabetical order.
When we share our innermost thoughts on a blog, send pictures of loved ones through Facebook, or even divulge the unhealthy foods we ate for dinner from our iPhone, we trust the companies that run those services with our data. Companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Companies like Dropbox, AT&T, Foursquare, and Linked In.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), initially funded by three big donors in 1990 including Apple’s own Steve Wozniak, published its third yearly report on the best and worst of these companies.
The results may surprise you: Apple has one of the worst scores on the chart.
The Cupertino company gets only one star – on par with internet behemoth Yahoo and telcom giant AT&T – and that was awarded for fighting for privacy rights in congress. (It’s worth noting that Yahoo’s one star gets an extra sparkly patina due to the company’s “silent battle for user privacy” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).
The report examined the public policies of major internet companies, including service providers, cloud storage companies, blogging platforms, social networking sites, and the like, to figure out whether they were committed to backing us up when our own government wants access to our data. The point of the report is to motivate companies to be more transparent, and do better.
EFF’s scorecard was released in the spring, before NSA and PRISM were in the spotlight, but the criteria were prescient.
Companies were rated by whether they:
Require a warrant for content of communications.
Tell users about government data requests.
Publish transparency reports.
Publish law enforcement guidelines.
Fight for users’ privacy rights in courts.
Fight for users’ privacy in Congress.
Apple earned its lone star for joining the Digital Due Process Coalition. However it does not require a warrant, tell users about government data requests, publish transparent reports or law enforcement guidelines, nor does it fight for users’ privacy rights in court.
Compare this to a company like Twitter, which does all of these things. The microblogging service scores favorably across all the EFF categories, as does internet provider Sonic.net.
Google rates a five out of six, falling short a star for not telling users about government access requests; Dropbox ranks the same, demoted a star for not fighting for users’ privacy rights in court.
Overall, it’s great to know how private our communications are. (Or not, as the case may be.) Reports like this one are a step towards transparency and understanding of our own ability to interact privately, at least within the realm of the law. If a company we trust is cavalier about our own data, perhaps we should contact them and ask them why they aren’t scoring so well. Maybe the companies will make some changes in policy, or maybe they’ll lose some customers when they don’t.
Either way, if privacy is important to you, you can see above exactly how important it isn’t, and the companies it isn’t important to.