Among a lot of other settings, each application keeps track what documents have been opened the last time you have used the program. The entries are listed in the submenu File > Recent Items of each application. Additionally, there is a central list of recently used documents and applications in the Apple menu, and the Finder maintains a list of servers to which manual network connections have been made.
To protect your privacy, you may like to remove these entries because they allow to keep track how you used the computer in the past. The server list may also contain passwords in the clear that should be protected. TinkerTool System can automatically clear the following entries for you:
When using macOS Sierra, the following entries can be cleared additionally:
Classic applications or legacy applications which store recent items under their own control (which is not compliant with macOS software design guidelines) cannot have their recent items removed automatically.
To remove the entries for Recent Items, perform the following steps:
This will delete the entries, of course not the documents these entries refer to. For technical reasons, applications won’t allow their recent items to be removed while they are running. To delete entries in as many programs as possible, it is recommended to quit all applications you don’t currently need before using this feature. When removing entries for recent folders from the Finder, the Finder must be restarted for technical reasons.
This item is not visible when running macOS High Sierra, because that operating system comes with Safari 11. Safari 11 introduces several internal SQL databases which depend on each other in complex fashion, an architecture which is not designed to be easily accessed from the outside, e.g. by applications such as TinkerTool System. In addition, Safari 11 itself adds new, sophisticated settings to control your privacy. For this reason, it no longer makes sense trying to handle web browser privacy by removing Safari files. Please see the section How can I control Internet privacy when Safari 11 has been installed? for more information.
Internet browsers maintain a large amount of data referring to the pages you have visited on the Internet. This information is needed to speed up the browsers, and to offer several comfort functions, like going back to previously opened pages, displaying site icons, searching for keywords, etc. Because all these items could be misused to track your activities on the Internet (in case your user account is accessible by more than one person), you may like to remove them to protect your privacy. Another reason to remove these files is that they can be using large amounts of storage space. TinkerTool System can help you to remove the following items related to Apple’s web browser Safari 10 from your user account:
Up-to-date versions of Safari support the HTML version 5(HTML5) industry standard. In this standard, it is provided that web sites can use technology to create and store databases permanently in your user account. It has to be differentiated between
File sets of type “local storage” also use SQL database technology, but are not designed as fully featured databases, but more as a luxurious successor technology to replace cookies. Both types of HTML5 databases can be used by web pages, web applications and Dashboard widgets. In case you check the item Remove persistent data stored by web applications and web applications, TinkerTool System will open a dialog window before performing the clean-up procedure, where all databases and local storage sets, as well as the Internet domains they are associated with, will be listed. (Only Safari and local applications using the macOS WebKit will be affected.) You can select the entries which should be removed or be kept in detail. Further instructions can be found below.
Sophisticated applications that run within a web page displayed by Safari, e.g. text processors, can particularly depend on their respective databases. Please note that such applications may have used databases to store documents you have created. Such documents can be lost when you delete the respective databases.
Another software component which might keep track of the web pages you have visited is the optional Adobe® Flash® Player which is shared among different Internet browsers using a plug-in architecture. TinkerTool System can assist you in removing
To clean your user account from the aforementioned items, perform the following steps:
TinkerTool System will automatically instruct you to quit running web browsers depending on the options you have chosen. You will receive a summary noting how much files are going to be deleted before the actual operation will be performed. You must confirm this by pressing an additional Delete button. Because this can include tens of thousands of files with cryptic names, TinkerTool System won’t list each file individually.
Important: If you are removing Safari cookies, you must log out after the cleaning procedure has completed in order to make sure that the cookies are actually deleted.
If your choice has included HTML5 databases or Flash® items, you will receive detailed confirmation panels, however. The panels list each web site for which databases or Flash objects have been stored. By setting or removing check marks in the list, you can individually decide which data sets of which sites should be removed. Pressing the buttons All or None in the category columns will either set or remove all check marks, respectively. Note that the list of Flash items is sorted by site domains, respecting the hierarchical meaning of domain names. The list of HTML5 databases is sorted by the type of database as default. A search field is also included which allows you to filter sites. The deletion of databases or Flash items must be confirmed by pressing the respective Clean button.
Please note the following points:
TinkerTool System can also assist you in modifying your personal security settings and site-specific preferences used by the Flash® Player. To use this feature, perform the following steps:
Using this feature will cause TinkerTool System to open your preferred web browser and to contact Adobe® via the Internet. An application provided by Adobe will be used to get access to your personal security settings used by the Flash Player. This feature won’t work if you don’t have a Flash Internet plug-in on your system. Adobe may not provide this feature in your preferred language.
In addition to the site-specific Flash settings, the Flash Player may also have created entries for specific sites in its list of global storage settings. This means, if you like to remove all traces of a visit to a specific Flash-enabled web site stored in your personal home folder, you’ll have to ensure to check all three types of possibly related items: the site’s cookies, the site-specific settings and the site’s entries in the global storage settings.
Neither TinkerTool System, nor the built-in cleaning features of Safari can guarantee that all information related to your activities on the Internet will be removed completely. Internet plug-ins, the network caches of the operating system, or the caches of your Internet router may still keep data about past activities.
In addition to user permissions, macOS supports other features to protect the privacy of users and to secure data. One of those mechanisms is based on privacy settings that prevent access to certain domains of a user’s personal data in relation to applications. For example, access to the personal calendars of users can be configured in such a way that only the Calendar application of macOS has permission to process the calendar entries, but no other Apps, even if those Apps have been started by the user owning the calendar.
This protection is not as strict and effective as user permissions. Only Apps that use the official application program interfaces (APIs) to access personal data areas are under control of this privacy feature. For example, the user can still use TextEdit to open the raw text file of a calendar entry on disk to display an event, even if TextEdit has not been granted privacy permission to process calendar entries.
The decisions which applications should have access to which areas are stored by macOS in a privacy database. Many, but not necessarily all entries can be reviewed in the table at System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy. TinkerTool System offers a user interface to perform Apple’s official procedure to reset these permission entries. The decisions that have been made in the past regarding access to personal domains can be undone, returning to factory defaults. This causes the affected Apps to lose their access permissions and to ask the user again for a decision, the next time access to personal data is attempted.
This privacy function has been taken over from Apple’s mobile devices. While iOS devices are designed for a single user only, macOS is a true multi-user system. As a consequence, some details of the privacy function don’t work well with macOS. Although Apple’s documentation on this feature suggests that the settings are based on decisions “of the user”, not all settings are stored per user account, but rather system-wide. This means, a privacy decision a single user has made may affect all users of the current computer. It is not clearly defined yet (and macOS may sometimes grant and sometimes deny permission to change a privacy setting, depending on circumstances), which users have permission to modify these settings. Results may vary between operating system versions.
For these reasons, TinkerTool System takes a careful, conservative approach when trying to reset the privacy database: The application does not ask for administrative permission, but sends Apple’s official command to reset the decisions for a particular access domain only with the non-privileged rights of the current user. It then checks whether macOS has confirmed that the operation was successful.