Mac OS Update Sparks Privacy Concern

Some Macintosh users are complaining about a new feature added in the latest update to Mac OS X that periodically checks in with Apple Computer without the user's knowledge. The feature checks to see if widgets on the Dashboard are authentic, and Apple says it is for security purposes.

Called Dashboard Advisory, the application is intended to protect users from malicious software. It checks to see if a widget installed on a user's machine is the same as the one advertised on Apple's download page. The check occurs every eight hours, and there is no way to shut it off.

In the release notes for the 10.4.7 update, Apple describes it as such: "You can now verify whether or not a Dashboard widget you downloaded is the same version as a widget featured on www.apple.com before installing it."

However, some are up in arms about the addition, characterizing it as an intrusion into their privacy.

"The mere act of 'checking in' lets Apple know that I'm here and I'm running 10.4.7. They didn't ask my permission to start making this regular checkin, and I'm not even sure what benefit I'm going to be getting out of allowing it," independent software developer Daniel Jalkut wrote in his blog on Monday.

Jalkut called on Apple to give the user the option to turn the feature off, and be more forthcoming in the future. "It's my computer, after all," said Jalkut.

Apple's actions come just weeks after Microsoft was criticized for a "phone home" feature built into Windows Genuine Advantage, and anti-piracy program. WGA's Notifications component connected with Microsoft's servers each day, sparking an outcry from users. Microsoft has since removed the daily check, but WGA will still contact the company "periodically."

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