I have just read this article about the privacy concerns when using dictation in Mountain Lion. The article points out part of the disclaimer:

“When you dictate text, what you say is sent to Apple to be converted to text. To help your Mac recognize what you’re saying, other information is sent as well, such as your contacts.”

The Apple site also states:

Just say your friend’s name, and Dictation knows who you mean. It works with information in the Contacts app to recognize and spell names accurately, even if they have unusual spellings.

So I understand that it's not necessarily for nefarious purposes and I'd like to continue to use dictation, but I'm not sure I'm comfortable knowing my contacts' information is being sent away from my computer.

As far as I've found, there is no way to officially disable the sending of contact information. I'm wondering if it's possible to block/disable dictation from sending my contacts using another method?

  • I hate to burst you're bubble, but you probably use other syncing tools like iCloud, Google's sync or some sort of e-mail service that know you better than you do lol – Alexander Jul 30 '12 at 5:30
  • Yes but the point is I choose what information to add to those services. it would be nice to do the same with dictation without having to stop using it. – OrangeBox Jul 30 '12 at 5:50
  • OrangeBox is asking a great question here. I was surprised to find so little on this subject (Googling), and xElx's answer is pretty clever. The problem, of course, is that we don't know if Dictation is sending only the current user's address book or not, and this is really the larger problem at this point of any workaround—no way to confirm. I tried archiving my address book file so the information wouldn't be in a recognizable format, but to my surprise, when I opened Contacts in Mountain Lion (with the address book file zipped), the app repopulated itself with all my contact information. If – user28676 Sep 6 '12 at 16:13

This is just a work around and I don't own Mountain Lion yet, so I can't test it myself, but I bet it will work. In all likelihood, each user on a given computer can turn Dictation on or off independent of the other users and Dictation only sends information from whichever user account is currently active.

When I get Mountain Lion, I will set up a second "dummy" user, that will only be used for dictation/transcription. I won't use any user info-based applications (iCal, Address Book, etc.) in this secondary account. When I want to dictate something, I'll use the handy fast user switching command to jump over to my dummy account (also copying over any needed information or documents pertinent to the dictation), dictate the content, and when it comes back from Apple I'll copy the transcription back to my main account. Hypothetically, then, the only info Apple will get from me will be fairly standard hardware/OS stats, my Apple ID (which they, of course, already have), and the contents of the dictation/transcription.

  • Dictation is listed under the system category and not something that can be chosen on a per user basis. Like Time Machine, it's either all on or all off, so I wouldn't counsel anyone to enable Dictation on OS X unless they were comfortable with the privacy ramifications and Apple having access to contact information for all user accounts. I'll expand upon this as a full answer. – bmike Mar 21 '13 at 17:37
  • @bmike if blocking servers or assistantd (run by user) for only specific users, then it should be safe to enable Dictation system wide as it would fail on those accounts. Theoretically, right? Would almost be surprised if Apple grabbed all contact data mentioned in your answer right away from all users, even if only one was logged in at time of Enabling. I could certainly try to check on this, and indeed may. – NOTjust -- user4304 Mar 22 '13 at 3:02

I don't think it's possible to use Dictation without sending ALL spoken data to Apple.

The process assistantd is launched. I own both Little Snitch and HandsOff!. These images are all that little snitch offered with the popup after I went in and disabled its default and protected rule which is referenced in the block-quote below the image. Protocol 6 I believe is HTTPS, so http with SSL.

If the connection to guzzoni.apple.com is not completed in some fraction of a second (tested with 3 controls this), then the little dictation bubble / microphone icon just goes into the 'close' mode. I might try following activity with Fseventer later too, but I'm out of time at the moment. Also, I captured activity sent but it was just a bunch of garble, probably b/c it was already encrypted at that point.

Another workaround that I may try: install a Mountain Lion virtual Machine, and use dictation there. I'll report back on my findings, especially if I have a good experience with emulation (VMWare is my preferred program). +1 to the other workaround too!

Little Snitch Pop-up info boxes

From the default rule that I temporarily disabled to bring up the pop-up.

action: allow
direction: outgoing
process: /System/Library/PrivateFrameworks/AssistantServices.framework/assistantd
destination: domain apple.com
port: 443
protocol: 6
help: This rule is necessary if you want to use Apple’s dictation services.

IP Addresses:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  • You are correct - all dictated sound goes to the servers to be processed. The retention policies are clearly explained in the System Preferences for Dictation - as well as how limited contact information is sent relating to related people listed with the "My Card" record. It doesn't look like the entire Contact database is uploaded and stored, just related names as opposed to related records linked to those related names. – bmike Mar 21 '13 at 17:51

Here's how things work:

  1. Dictation is a system wide setting, like Time Machine so it's either all on or all off.
  2. As of 10.8.3, you can't go into privacy and remove access to contacts for Dictation like most other apps that ask for total access to the Contact database.
  3. The privacy terms listed under dictation in the System Preferences has this restriction explicitly listed about how contact data is used:

Your computer will also send Apple other information, such as your first name and nickname; and the names, nicknames, and relationship with you (for example, “my dad”) of your address book contacts.

So, if you were careful to have no personally identifying information in your "me" card in Contacts or the user account preference pane when you set up each user account, it stands to reason that no contact information would leave your Mac even if you enabled dictation and had multiple user accounts on that Mac.

Again, most people I know don't use "Related Name" fields since you have to add them manually in the Contacts > Card menu > Go To My Card

Furthermore, if you enable Private Me Card in the vCard section of Contacts you can opt certain fields out of sharing, so it's not clear if Dictation trumps that setting and reads related names anyhow or if you can have granular control over sending of these names to the Dictation servers.

Of course, in the end, you have to decide to grant or withhold trust to Apple. Considering the coding and security and transport and encryption that Apple uses as well as their data center security including physical access, legal access and security of backup data for iCloud and Dictation would all be worth a little thought before deciding to opt in to Dictation.

  • My interpretation of the paragraph quoted is that uploaded names extend to ALL names of contacts (possibly ONLY spoken), not just those 'Related to Me'. – NOTjust -- user4304 Mar 22 '13 at 3:10
  • You could also be right. All names, nicknames and relationship fields could get uploaded. – bmike Mar 22 '13 at 12:09

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