Mac Help: Mastering Yosemite's Privacy settings

Security is on everyone's mind these days. How secure is your Mac? Can other people figure out where you are? What apps have access to your most important data? Read on to understand how Yosemite's Privacy settings are configured, and how to master them.

R.C. writes:

I've "enabled Location Services" multiple times when I've been using apps like Maps, Evernote and Calendar. Is that a bad thing? Can I be tracked by everyone now?

Not quite. There's no GPS radio inside the Mac like there is in an iPhone, so you're not constantly in touch with a tower somewhere. Instead, your Mac figures out your location via Wi-Fi instead. When Wi-Fi is on, Location Services-related apps can work.

Certain apps like your Maps app benefit from being able to figure out precisely where you are — giving you directions to places you need to go with reasonable accuracy, then transferring that info to your iPhone so you can use it on the road. When you tell the Mac to enable Location Services, you're enabling it for those apps — and those apps only — to try to locate themselves in the world.

The Privacy tab in the Security & Privacy system preference is where you can manage that connection. If you want to turn off or edit Location Services settings, click the lock in the lower left and enter your system administration password.

To open Security & Privacy settings in Yosemite

  1. Click on the menu.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click on Security & Privacy.
  4. Click on the Privacy tag.
  5. Click on the lock icon in the lower left and enter your Mac desktop password.

Security & Privacy system preference

Location Services


Admin password

Now you can edit which applications have access to Location Services.

J.T. writes:

I got a message saying I gave a newly installed app access to my Contacts database. Did I do something wrong? Can something get corrupted that way?

Yosemite creates a few common databases when your user account is generated. Contacts, Calendar and Reminders databases are three of the most common ones. Different apps can work with those databases. You have ultimate control over which apps can and can't work with them, and you can adjust that from the same place you'd adjust Location Services.

Privacy Contacts settings

In the Privacy tab of Yosemite's Security & Privacy system preferences pane, you'll find the setting you need to control access to your contacts, calendars and reminders databases. To get there, follow the steps above, but click on the Contacts, Calendars and Reminders icons in the left window.

Click the Lock button in the lower left, enter your system administration password and adjust the settings for each application.