Mac OS X Snow Leopard: Problem Reporter and Privacy Violation – Update

Whenever you don’t get a choice whether to share information or not, your privacy is violated. It doesn’t matter whether the information is said to be anonymous or encrypted or non-sensitive. Why?
– The act of sending information is in itself informative too: the receiver knows that you exist, even though the receiver may not know your name and address.
– As soon as you contact a server, the owner of the server knows that you are on-line and may find you through your IP number (sometimes even if you use a remote proxy server).
– In the case of Apple’s problem reporter, as soon as you contact Apple’s server, Apple knows that you are using a Mac with Snow Leopard and just made a programme on your Mac crash.
– You are also telling Apple the configuration of your computer and even which programme you just used (e.g. Google Earth, a web browser, LimeWire, or Transmit).
– To most users, it is unclear which information is sent to Apple, which is a security violation by itself: you wouldn’t let me into your house, if I tell you I’ll take something with me without telling you what I’m taking.
– Worst of all: Apple doesn’t give you an option to not send any information: Apple comes into your house, asks for permission to take something, but doesn’t accept “no”!
For these reasons, it is really important to disable the Problem Reporter on Mac OS X Snow Leopard, until Apple makes the problem reporting process more transparent and provides an option to not send the information. Here’s how.

Run the following command in Terminal:
sudo chmod 000 /System/Library/CoreServices/Problem Reporter.app

To re-enable Problem Reporter, do the following:
sudo chmod 755 /System/Library/CoreServices/Problem Reporter.app

Unfortunately, not allowing the Problem Reporter to run will cause an error when the system tries to run this application. I better method would be to prevent the system from invoking Problem Reporter entirely. If you know how to do this, please post a comment. Feel free to post a comment anyway, e.g. if you know about more compelling reasons why Problem Reporter is a violation of your privacy.

Better Solution

If you have registered as a developer with Apple and have downloaded and installed the developer tools, you can use the CrashReporterPrefs utility. After installation, you will find it at

/Developer/Applications/Utilities/CrashReporterPrefs.app

When you open this application, you will see three options.

Screen_shot_2010-09-09_at_00

Choose the third option “Server” to turn off the display of the Problem Reporter. The safest option is probably to give the Problem Reporter insufficient permissions to run while at the same time setting the Crash Reporter Preferences to “Server”, because nowhere I could find documentation on whether the Crash Reporter really won’t contact Apple’s server if “Server” has been selected.

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