Privacy Preferences in macOS Mojave

Mojave changes how apps ask for privacy settings and gives you easier control of those settings. In System Preferences, Security & Privacy, Privacy, you can see all of the permissions that have been granted to apps and change them. However, for typical users it is often hard to determine why an app needs access to a specific type of information.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Privacy Preferences in macOS Mojave.

A big improvement in macOS Mojave is the way that apps can access data on your Mac. The privacy settings they are now very similar to how iOS has always done things. So you can find Privacy Settings by going to System Preferences and then go to Security and Privacy and then Privacy. Then if you want access to actually make changes you want to authenticate here.

Now when you install apps or use apps for the first time they will often ask you for access to something. So, for instance, an app like Skype may want access to your contacts so you can actually make phone calls based on the names in your contacts. It may ask you for that when you first run Skype or when you install it. Then you don't have to worry about it. You never need to go here. As a matter of fact the typical Mac user never needs to go into Privacy Settings to look at anything. But all the stuff is here so you have all the transparency and control.

Now it can be a little confusing because it's not really clear why each one of these things exist and what it actually does. Sometimes it makes sense though. Like here under Location Services, Weather has access to that, of course, because you want the weather to be able to tell you, you know, what the weather is right here. You don't want to have to type in your location each time. So you've got a lot of that. Voice Memos, we know, creates a default name based on your location. So that's why it's using location services.

But other things aren't always as clear. Why does Automator need access to Photos. Well it turns out I know that because I created an Automator action that accessed Photos and was asked for permission. But some of this other stuff may not be as clear. Like why does some of this need access to Accessibility. That kind of thing. So when you're going through here always keep in mind a lot of this is kind of difficult to define why the permissions are there. There's no clear reading. But previously, in earlier version of Mac OS, it just had permissions and you didn't need to know about it. So this is definitely a big improvement.

If you look at some of these you'll see that some of them are turned off. That might be because you haven't used the app since upgrading to Mojave or you simply haven't run into that part of the app that uses that information. So, for instance, Microsoft Word wants accessibility access. I haven't run into needing that yet and it hasn't asked me for permission. That's why it's not checked. But I can check it here if I wanted to give it that ability in advance.

I think that the most useful thing here to know is that if you run into a problem with an app and something isn't working right and then you look up a solution. You may find somebody says try turning on this permission for that app in Privacy Settings. This is where to find that so now you know where to go.

You also will find some things here at the bottom like information on advertising mostly related to Apple's apps like the Mac App Store. Also for analytics. You know when you install Mac OS it says is it okay to share information with app developers or with Apple. You know when apps crash and things like that. This is where you can actually toggle those On or Off if you felt the need.

But for the most part you would just look through these to see which apps are granted permission. A good rule though is if you don't trust an app enough to give it permission to access something, like if it wants access to Contacts and you don't trust it to give it access to Contacts, then you probably shouldn't trust it to be on your Mac at all. So keep that in mind.

Other than that if you really wanted to know why an app needs access to something then you're best bet is to try to contact the developer and look through their support documents and hopefully they mention that in there.

Comments: 2 Responses to “Privacy Preferences in macOS Mojave”

    6 months ago

    Helpful, as usual! There are some apps I certainly trust, but don’t allow to access to certain areas because I’m overly paranoid. For example, I’d rather laboriously type in information in Skype than allow Microsoft any access to my contacts. While I “trust” Skype, I’d rather try to assure Microsoft doesn’t have even POTENTIAL access to my contacts. I rarely allow apps to know my location, except for maps when I travel. I give up convenience, but that’s just my preference.

    6 months ago

    Great icon choice for advertising.

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