macOS Big Sur telling Apple what app you’ve opened isn’t a security or privacy issue


Protect Your Access to the Internet

After a problem on Thursday, Apple’s app security measures have come under fire for reporting back what users are running on their Mac. But, the privacy concerns of bad actors potentially monitoring app usage are not be as big an issue as one researcher suggests.

On Thursday, macOS users reported issues trying to upgrade the operating system to macOS Big Sur, while others ended up having trouble running applications even without upgrading. The problem was determined to be server-related, with an issue on Apple’s side preventing Apple’s certificate checking function from working properly.

That same service has been picked up by security researcher Jeffrey Paul, founder of an application security and operational security consulting firm. In a lengthy piece written on Thursday, Paul attempted to raise awareness of a perceived privacy issue within macOS, namely that it seemingly reports back to Apple what apps are being opened up by a user.

According to Paul, Apple’s communications between the Mac and specific servers can be coupled with data stemming from an IP address in such a way that it can create a mass of metadata about a user’s actions. This would include where they are and when, as well as details of their computer and what software they’re running.

By collecting this data over time, this can supposedly create an archive that could easily be mined by bad actors, giving what could be considerable abilities to perform surveillance on a mass scale, possibly levels to the infamous and now shut down PRISM surveillance program.

The problem is, it’s nowhere even close to that dramatic, and nowhere near that bad. And, if they were so inclined, the ISPs have the ability to harvest way more data on users with just general Internet usage than Gatekeeper ever surrenders.

How Gatekeeper works

Apple includes various security features in its operating systems, and macOS is no exception. To prevent the potential use of malware in apps, Apple requires developers to undergo various processes to make the apps function on macOS.

Along with creating security certificates, which can help confirm an app from a developer is authorized and genuine, Apple also mandates that apps undergo a