Keep OS X Yosemite from sending Spotlight data to Apple


Spotlight is sending your searches back to Apple Photo: Apple
Spotlight is sending your search information back to Apple. Photo: Apple

OS X Yosemite has changed the way your Mac deals with your privacy. On the one hand, Apple has decided to enable hard drive encryption by default, despite the FBI requests not to.

On the other hand, every time you type in Spotlight, your location and local search terms are sent to Apple, and, according to developer Landon Fuller, other third parties like Microsoft.

Fuller’s created a website, Fix Mac OS X Yosemite, where he’s posted up a way to stop Yosemite from sending such private data out. He’s also been contributing to a developer project on GitHub to find out and fix other ways that OS X phones home.

Screengrab: Apple
Screengrab: Cult of Mac

First of all, launch System Preferences and click on the Spotlight preference pane icon. Click on the Search Results tab if it’s not already selected, and UNCHECK the boxes next to Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Suggestions.

You can also disable Location Services for Spotlight in the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences, clicking Details next to the System Services section in the Privacy tab, and then disabling Spotlight Suggestions there, as well. You can do this in addition to the above, or as a standalone solution – if you only disable Spotlight suggestions here, your Mac will still send information about your searches to Apple, just not your location.

Screengrab: Apple
Screengrab: Apple

When you’re finished, quit System Preferences.

Next, you’ll need to launch Safari and open up the Preferences from the Safari menu.

Screengrab: Cult of Mac
Screengrab: Apple

Uncheck Include Spotlight Suggestions there as well. Now when you use Safari, your privacy will be respected as well. There’s not an equivalent in Chrome that I’ve seen, but we’ll updated this article if we find something there to disable, as well.

Further, if you’re of the Python script loving sort, Fuller has a file you can run in Terminal that will do the same thing; you can download the script from his website.

Finally, head on over to the GitHub “Yosemite phone home” project page to see which other apps and services send your info out to Apple or other parties, and be a part of the fixes there.

Here’s a closer look at what Spotlight is sending:

Screengrab: Cult of Mac
Screengrab: Apple

Source: Fix Mac OS X

  • It would be helpful if you discussed the _reasons_ for OS/X sending out all of this information so people can make an educated decision as to whether to allow the transfer of data to continue. For example, safari URLs are sent to keep all browsers in sync.

    • steven taylor

      and the need for location data?

      • Mullet_Man

        I would assume for location tailored results. If you are at a coffee house and do a Spotlight search for “Pharmacy”, your location can be sent to Apple, forwarded to the Bing search engine API to provide local Pharmacy location in the on the laptop.

        This seems reasonable, its not like the masses would need to worry about “them” knowing I was at a coffee shop and needed a drugstore after meeting the barista. However, if this is a concern, by all means, disable it.

        I agree the article could have articulated some actual use cases.

      • Private

        Personalized suggestion according to your location, Map, restaurant, petrol station etc..

  • Thanks for the heads up

  • This is me

    The problem is since I upgraded to Yosemite I cant unlock the lock that is on the left corner on security and privacy setting. As soon as I click to unlock it locks again and I dont have any password on my laptop. Any suggestion how to fix it? Thank you.

    • Mark Jeffries

      The password is now your Apple ID password by default. Confused me for a minute too.

      You can go into Users & Groups and change it back to what you’re used to in the password section.

    • Hildebrand

      Rebooting can be helpful in situations like this.

  • CG

    Yosemite does NOT create an encrypted volume by default, even though a new install on a single partition will create a CoreImage Logical Volume.

    0: GUID_partition_scheme *63.5 GB disk1
    1: EFI EFI 209.7 MB disk1s1
    2: Apple_CoreStorage 62.6 GB disk1s2
    3: Apple_Boot Recovery HD 650.0 MB disk1s3

    0: Apple_HFS Emergency Yosemite … *62.3 GB disk2

    CoreStorage logical volume groups (1 found)
    +– Logical Volume Group XXXXXXXXXXXXX
    Name: Emergency Yosemite Boot
    Status: Online
    Size: 56564334592 B (56.6 GB)
    Free Space: 35717120 B (35.7 MB)
    +- Logical Volume Family XXXXXXXX
    Encryption Status: Unlocked
    Encryption Type: None
    Conversion Status: NoConversion
    Conversion Direction: -none-
    Has Encrypted Extents: No
    Fully Secure: No
    Passphrase Required: No
    +-> Logical Volume XXXXXXXX

    Disk: disk6
    Status: Online
    Size (Total): 56193069056 B (56.2 GB)
    Conversion Progress: -none-
    Revertible: Yes (no decryption required)
    LV Name: Emergency Yosemite Boot
    Volume Name: Emergency Yosemite Boot
    Content Hint: Apple_HFS

  • Jon

    By referring to “Bing Web Suggestions”, do you mean “Bing Web Searches”?

  • Neroon

    As Tim Cook pointed out Apple uses Data to improve results and provide contextual info. They do not store the info and they do not sell the info. Google on the other hand does much more with the data as that data is their business.

  • facelock2000

    After the installation of Yosemite my Little Snitch app has been working over time, compared to Mountain Lion, I would have to say there is way over 50% increase on in and outbound requests, Im trying to figure out who and where these services are, some have weird names so I have to decipher who they are, what their doing and why.

  • Hildebrand

    The solution provided is simply suggesting to stop using specific services.

    If you don’t trust Apple, this doesn’t help. You don’t know how and when they send data from the device to Apple. So if you don’t trust Apple, stop using Apple software (and probably any other software).

    I don’t trust Google as they make it clear they’re selling my preferences to advertisers, but I do trust Apple with my personal information, even if they send it (anonymous) to a third party service.