Report: Mac OS X 10.4.7 phones home

“Lately I’ve heard a lot on technical podcasts about the public outrage over “Microsoft Genuine Advantage” and the fact that it ‘phones home’ every day,” Daniel Jalkut reports for Red Sweater Blog.

“Apple released Mac OS X 10.4.7 last week, and ever since I installed it, I’ve been noticing Apple’s own modest home phoning behavior. In this case it’s ostensibly to provide users with the opportunity to check whether the Dashboard Widgets you download are identical to ones featured on Apple’s site. Sort of a security debriefing, I guess,” Jalkut reports.

From the 10.4.7 release notes:
You can now verify whether or not a Dashboard widget you downloaded is the same version as a widget featured on (http://www.apple.com) before installing it.

Jalkut writes, “The problem is this feature popped up without my permission, and there’s no obvious way for me to turn it off… I can’t see that anything at all is being sent back to Apple, but that’s sort of not the point. The mere act of “checking in” lets Apple know that I’m here and I’m running 10.4.7. They didn’t ask my permission to start making this regular checkin, and I’m not even sure what benefit I’m going to be getting out of allowing it.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Shades of the iTunes ‘MiniStore’ brouhaha (please see related articles below). Apple should ask permission first, explain what they are doing, and give users the option to turn the “feature” off if so desired.

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Related articles:
Apple’s iTunes MiniStore now asks for permission before operating – January 18, 2006
Critics say Apple snooping on users via new ITunes ‘MiniStore’ feature – January 13, 2006

41 Comments

  1. Do people have software update basically do the same thing? There should be some user control over this, but is it really a bigt deal?

    Apparently I was one of the first to have the Windows crap tell me I had a fake copy of Windows (I didn’t– my laptop’s clock was incorrect. Don’t get me started about how stupid…) Anyway, not even the M$ reps at my university knew what was going on. My computer was entirely legit, but it was trying to get me to pay money or I would receive any further updates. THAT is a very different than what’s going on here.

    I have yet to see a widget open by itself and attempt to extort me for money because it’s too dumb to tell the time.

  2. Yeah, I agree. Phoning home is the issue, not whether data is sent or not. Apple has been getting off the path of respecting its customers lately, and this is another example. This should be an option that the users can turn on or off and it should be off by default.

    MDN word: freedom

  3. The fact that it phones home does not concern me. The fact that the Department Of Homeland Security, the FBI and the CIA are keeping a log of every computer that phones home – that concerns me! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”wink” style=”border:0;” />

  4. Unfortunately, 10.3.9 is probably the last ‘truly secure’ OS Apple made. Although Spotlight and Widgets do increase productivity, they greatly increase the chance for wrongdoing. Spotlight makes its very simple to flag your computer based on the keywords in its compiled database, and Widgets allow people to have 100x more 3rd party software on their system than ever before. Its all theoretical, but the possibilities means Apple must stay on top of it to remain secure. Now a blatantly insecure OS like Windows implementing these same ‘features’ means . . .

  5. Wigets are very powerful. Some can have root access and as a result they are a potential source of malware entry.

    I would think it would be in everyone’s interest to be running the latest, most secure version of each widget.

  6. Anyone offended by this ‘phoning home’ behavior is just looking for something to complain about. Do you use Software Update? If so, Apple already knows far more about your computer than any Widget version check would tell them.

    The MacOS has no license key, so even if you didn’t pay for your upgrade to Tiger (which is NOT free, unless your Mac came with it pre-installed) Apple has no way of knowing.

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