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The Pane Privacy

Recent Items

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:

Classic applications or legacy applications which store recent items under their own control (which is not compliant with OS X software design guidelines) cannot have their recent items removed automatically.

Additionally, the item Include internal copies invisible at the user interface allows a very deep cleaning of recent items. If you set a check mark here, TinkerTool System will also remove internal hidden records maintained by OS X which could allow system experts to recover some of the Recent Item entries even after they had been deleted. This option can only be selected when you are removing items for documents, applications, and servers at the same time.

This additional option is not necessary in OS X El Capitan or later.

Recent items
Recent items

To remove the entries for Recent Items, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the tab item Recent Items on the pane Privacy.
  2. Check each category for which the entries for Recent Items should be removed.
  3. Press the button Remove selected entries.

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.

Internet Privacy

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 from your user account:

These features are available for Safari versions 3 to 10. They are not supported for Safari 11 or later. 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 privacy
Internet privacy

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 OS X 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:

  1. Open the tab item Internet Privacy on the pane Privacy.
  2. Set or remove check marks for all information categories you like to have cleaned.
  3. Press the button Clean….

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 and you are using OS X El Capitan or later, 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:

  1. Open the tab item Internet Privacy on the pane Privacy.
  2. Press the button Change your Flash® website storage settings.

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.

Shared User Cookies (OS X Yosemite only)

As of version 5.1 of the Safari web browser, Apple has removed the user interface in the preferences panel which allowed to review the contents of cookies and to remove them individually. To fill this gap, TinkerTool System offers a cookie table which supersedes this lost functionality. In addition, you can setup a search pattern for cookies which allows you to semi-automatically clean the cookie store from entries of certain sites, or with specific contents.

To show the current list of cookies, select the tab item Cookies of the pane Privacy.

Cookies
Cookies

The cookies shown in the table have mainly been collected by Safari, but they may also be used and shared with other applications as well. For example, Dashboard or the documentation reader of Xcode may also create and read cookies shown in the list. It is recommended not to use such applications while you are removing cookies.

As of OS X El Capitan, Apple no longer uses any shared cookies.

To delete one or more cookies, select their entry lines in the table, then press the button Remove below the table.

You can search for cookies and filter them to automatically create a preselection of cookies that you like to remove. To do this, enter text into the search field at the bottom right of the window. The resulting search is case-insensitive and checks the domains and names of the cookies. The entered word is taken as search pattern which can appear anywhere in the domain and name fields.

To delete all displayed cookies (which might be a subset based on a search filter), press the button Remove all below the table.

In addition, you can work with a list of search patterns. TinkerTool System will then combine the search results, assuming an “or” condition to compare the cookies with all words entered. The list of search patterns is persistent between different launches of TinkerTool System, so you can reuse it any time later.

To work with the filter list, press the button Filter by list…. A list of words will appear. You can change a filter word by double-clicking it and entering new contents. You can remove a word by selecting it and pressing the button [—]. You can add a new word by pressing the button [+] and entering text. The filter list will become active after you press the button Set filter. If you like to close the word list without establishing a search filter, press the button Cancel.

To deactivate the filter list, either enter a new word into the search field to search for this single word only, or enter an “empty” word by clicking into the search field and pressing the key . In the latter case, you will see all cookies again.

App Privacy

In addition to user permissions, OS X 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 OS X 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 OS X 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.

Reset application privacy settings
Reset application privacy settings

Attention This privacy function has been taken over from Apple’s mobile devices. While iOS devices are designed for a single user only, OS X is a true multi-user system. As a consequence, some details of the privacy function don’t work well with OS X yet. 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 OS X 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 OS X has confirmed that the operation was successful.

  1. Open the tab item App Privacy on the pane Privacy.
  2. Set check marks for all access domains where the privacy settings should be reset.
  3. Press the button Reset.