The same features that enable websites to present contextually relevant ads, and the very technologies that permit applications to share information between programs, also increase the risk that personal information will be accessed in a way the user or organization doesn't wish. Privacy controls, as a result, are becoming increasingly important. Fortunately, OS X makes it easy to configure specific privacy settings.
Security & Privacy
OS X privacy settings are configured from within the Security & Privacy System Preferences' Privacy tab. Specific options — including Location Services, Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, Accessibility and Diagnostics & Usage — can be selected within the left window, at which point corresponding options appear within the right-hand window.
When Location Services are selected, Reminders, Safari, Maps, and Calendar are all default items that can be enabled or disabled. Enabling an application is as simple as selecting the provided checkbox, which permits Location Services to access and interact with the respective program.
The Contacts option enables permitting Apple's Contacts to prove accessible to multiple programs. Among the programs users can choose to enable are Keynote and Pages. Other potential options include Google Chrome and the Microsoft Office Setup Assistant.
Calendars, similar to Contacts, enables permitting specific apps to access the Apple Calendar, while Reminders lists installed programs possessing the capacity to access the Mac's Reminders. The same is true for the Accessibility option, while Diagnostics & Usage permits users to send diagnostic and usage data to Apple (or not).
As other apps are installed that seek to connect with other programs, such as occurs with Facebook and Twitter, those applications will appear within the left-hand Privacy menu, too.
Clicking the Privacy tab's Advanced tab provides access to several additional settings. Users and administrators can opt to adjust the period at which the system logs out after the specified number of minutes of inactivity and require that the admin password be provided when accessing system-wide preferences. Anyone who's deployed an Apple TV within range of a Mac will also wish to remember that the Mac's integrated infrared receiver that responds to an Apple remote control can be disabled from the Advanced button, too.
Safari also includes several options for adjusting privacy settings. Users can opt for private browsing, in which the Mac does not record or store browsing information for the session, by clicking Safari and choosing Private Browsing.
Selecting Preferences within Safari, and then choosing the Privacy tab, provides access to adjusting additional web browsing settings. Users and administrators can elect to remove all website data (including cookies), block cookies, limit website access to location services, and set prompting levels when websites do seek to access location services. Safari privacy preferences also permit requesting that websites not track the user and adjusting smart search field settings to prevent Smart Search from preloading Top Hits and blocking search engine suggestions.
How tightly do you lock down the privacy controls on OS X? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.