| Cult of Mac

AirTag needs big changes to become less criminal-friendly

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Maybe Apple should just dump AirTag
Creeps love AirTag. But there are changes Apple could make so it would be much less useful for criminals.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

New York’s attorney general issued a warning Wednesday about AirTags being used to secretly track people. And this is only the latest in a growing controversy over misuse of Apple’s tracking tags.

Perhaps Apple should drop the item tracker completely. At the very least, the functionality needs to be scaled way back.

Zoom fixes macOS bug that leaves mics active when they shouldn’t be

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Zoom fixes Mac's microphone bug
Install the latest update as soon as you can.
Photo: Markus Spiske/Unsplash

Zoom issued a quick fix for its native macOS app over the weekend to address a concerning bug that left microphones active when they shouldn’t have been.

It comes after many Mac users complained the app was still listening in after calls had ended. It is the second time Zoom has attempted to eliminate this issue, so here’s to hoping this update actually does its job.

Test shows AirTags are better and safer than Tile and GPS trackers

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A New York Times reporter found that AirTag tracking and privacy alerts can work better than other trackers.
A New York Times reporter found that AirTag tracking and privacy alerts can work better than other trackers.
Photo: Apple

Just a day after Apple touted its beefed-up privacy precautions for AirTags — in the wake of criminal incidents involving the tracking devices — an article in The New York Times on Friday showed their superiority to Tile and GPS trackers.

A reporter tracked her husband using all three kinds of devices. She found the AirTags not only better at tracking him in an urban area, but also better at tipping him off to the tracking.

Mac users say Zoom is listening in when it’s not in use

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Zoom listening in on Mac: Is Zoom using your microphone when it shouldn't be?
Is Zoom using your microphone when it shouldn't be?
Photo: Franco Antonio Giovanella/Unsplash license

An increasing number of Mac users say Zoom is using their machine’s microphone even when the app is not in use.

Zoom rolled out an update last December for its native Mac app that supposedly resolved “an issue regarding the microphone light indicator being triggered when not in a meeting.” But it doesn’t appear to have worked.

Apple boosts AirTag privacy after criminal incidents

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AirTags seemed so innocent and helpful at first.
AirTags seemed so innocent and helpful at first.
Photo: Apple

Apple said in a statement Thursday it will update AirTags item trackers with new privacy warnings, better warning sounds and smarter Find My tracking. The efforts comes as the company tries to improve security in the wake of criminal activity involving the devices, such as theft and stalking.

It’s the latest of several privacy updates Cupertino announced for AirTags since releasing them last year.

Facebook warns it will lose $10 billion to iOS privacy protections in 2022

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Facebook loses to iOS privacy protections
How disappointing.
Photo: Dawid Sokołowski/Unsplash

Facebook parent company Meta has warned investors that it will lose around $10 billion in 2022 as a result of Apple’s bolstered privacy protections.

The company has been whinging about the improvements, which include App Tracking Transparency, since they were introduced in iOS 14. Its shares dipped more than 20% on Wednesday after it reported its latest disappointing earnings.

DuckDuckGo is building its own privacy-protecting web browser for Mac

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DuckDuckGo coming to Mac
All its privacy features will be enabled by default.
Image: DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo, the search engine that prides itself on protecting your privacy, is building its very own web browser for Mac. It promises to be simple and fast, with robust privacy features enabled by default.

The browser will feature DuckDuckGo’s popular “Fire Button,” which quickly wipes all your private data in just one click. It also will be built to use native browser technologies, rather than relying on third-party engines.

Apple deletes all mentions of controversial CSAM plan from its website [Update]

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Apple CSAM photo scanning
What's going on with CSAM scanning?
Photo: Apple

UPDATE 12/16: Apple has told The Verge that its CSAM photo-scanning plan is still on hold, and that plans to roll it out later haven’t changed.

Apple has quietly removed all references to its controversial plan to scan iCloud Photos libraries for child sexual abuse material from its website. Back in August, Cupertino announced its intention to trawl through users’ pictures to detect CSAM material.

However, after encountering significant criticism from experts, rights groups and even its own employees, Apple shelved the feature. The company said in September that it had “decided to take additional time” to collect input and make improvements to the feature. But it’s now unclear whether it will go ahead with CSAM photo scanning at all.

iOS 15.2 brings new privacy features, Apple Music Voice Plan

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Apple tests Legacy Contacts to allow loved ones access your data after you pass on
Legacy Contacts are among the features debuting in iOS 15.2 and iPadOS 15.2.
Photo: Cult of Mac

iPhone users can now upgrade to iOS 15.2. The update adds a cheaper Apple Music option, plus there’s a new App Privacy Report, and parents will be alerted if their children send or receive nudes.

iPadOS 15.2 is also available with these same updates. And there’s overlap with the just-released watchOS 8.3 and macOS Monterey 12.1.

Verizon tracks almost everything you do on iPhone. Here’s how to stop it.

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Stop Verizon tracking iPhone
Don't let Verizon keep tabs on everything you do.
Image: Verizon/Cult of Mac

If you use an iPhone on Verizon, there’s a good chance your carrier has been tracking everything you do when you’re connected to its cellular network. This includes the websites you visit, the apps you use, your location and more.

It’s all part Verizon’s “Custom Experience” and “Custom Experience Plus” programs, which are designed to “personalize” the carrier’s communications with its customers. In other words, it’s to build a profile about you so Verizon can better serve you targeted ads. (According to Verizon’s typo-riddled website, “The Custom Experience programs help us personalize communications, recommandations [sic] and offers to make them more relevant to you.”

There’s nothing Apple can do to stop this — despite its new privacy protections baked into iOS — because its tracking does not require an app installed on your iPhone. But there is something you can do to prevent it. We’ll show you how.