How to reset a user’s privacy permissions on macOS and iOS


There are times when privacy permissions become corrupt or misconfigured. Instead of auditing manually, users can easily reset the permissions database that holds their privacy data.

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Apple is a staunch supporter of privacy rights. The company has championed the cause of privacy on behalf of all the users of its devices—even the ones that stand accused of using their devices as a tool for otherwise questionable actions or to commit illegal activities.

SEE: Apple iOS 13: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

And while we each will have our personal opinions on such matters, it is beyond the scope of this article to pass judgement. These privacy settings ensure that if even the most questionable are protected, and those of us who use the devices legally are more than covered, too.

The push for privacy and security has been sweeping across the entirety of Apple’s device lineup and operating systems for years now. Each new iteration places greater controls on what devices can access, what Apple does with the data, and how access can be restricted. Most importantly, it places the power solely in the hands of its users, allowing them to decide exactly what they feel comfortable sharing and to what degree.

Sometimes though, these privacy settings can become corrupt or simply misconfigured due to user error or system anomaly. This can extend itself to privacy concerns over data leaks, system compromise, and worse. Luckily, there are steps that users can take to clear the permissions database and reset back to factory defaults. This allows any instances to be eliminated and reconfigured properly, securely in-line with the user’s wishes.

SEE: The Apple Developer Program: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Follow below to learn how to reset the privacy settings per user account, but please note: This guide is intended to aid users (or admins in assisting their users) to reset their settings so they may be able to reconfigure them in a more secure manner. It is not the intention of this article to provide a means of arbitrarily invading a user’s data without authorization. There are laws against accessing user data without prior authorization in most states. You have been warned.

Reset all privacy settings on macOS

  1. Log into the Mac computer with the user’s account that you wish to reset.
  2. Launch Terminal.
  3. Enter the following command to reset all privacy databases for all applications on the device:
tccutil reset All 

Note: Some vendors require a reset directly referencing the privacy list (PLIST) used by the application in order to fully clear out all data entries. In those cases, appending the PLIST name to end of the command above will target only that application’s PLIST:

tccutil reset all com.vendorname.appname 

Reset application-specific privacy settings on macOS

  1. Log into the Mac computer with the user’s account that you wish to reset.
  2. Launch Terminal.
  3. Enter the following command to reset all privacy databases for all applications on the device:
tccutil reset AppName 

Note: Apple does not keep a documented list of all the application names supported with the reset command, but below is a list of known first-party applications and third-party services:

Accessibility,AddressBook,All,AppleEvents,Calendar,Camera,ContactsFull,ContactsLimited,Facebook,FileProviderDomain,FileProviderPresence,LinkedIn,Liverpool,Location,MediaLibrary,Microphone,Motion,Photos,PhotosAdd,PostEvent,Reminders,ScreenCapture,ShareKit,SinaWeibo,Siri,SpeechRecognition,SystemPolicyAllFiles,SystemPolicyDesktopFolder,SystemPolicyDeveloperFiles,SystemPolicyDocumentsFolder,SystemPolicyNetworkVolumes,SystemPolicyRemovableVolumes,SystemPolicySysAdminFiles,SysyemPolicyDownloadsFolder,TencentWeibo,Twitter,Ubiquity,Willow

Reset all privacy settings on iOS

  1. Unlock the iOS device.
  2. Go to Settings | General | Reset | Reset Location & Privacy.
  3. If prompted to confirm the settings change, enter your passcode to confirm.
  4. The device will reboot and clear out all databases that contain privacy permissions data for all apps currently installed on iOS-based devices.
  5. Once the device returns to the home screen, apps will prompt to gain access to privacy settings anew. Users will be required to tap OK to allow, or Don’t Allow to deny.

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