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Recently I am told that information unknown to the user is sent to Wolfram Servers. Is there any truth behind it ? I was told that more than just an IP address of the user is sent to them and that they catalogue all info and built a database from it. Even if you do not click on "internet connectivity option" info is sent to them.

Update Question applies to three parts to make it easier to answer.

a) Mathematica on Raspberry Pi
b) Cloud Mathematica
c) Mathematica that can be installed on your personal computer

The answer to (a) and (b) are blatantly clear because the Wolfram Corporation takes control over the computation through their own servers. So they can hear, see and infer every bit of what's happening. For (c) is fishy what is going on and how the data is being used by Wolfram Corp.

Just think of what can be deduced from I.P. data, USER ID and MACHINE ID AND HELP FUNCTION BROWSING EVERY TIME YOU USE Mathematica. This is metadata that Wolfram Corp has no real hesitation admitting to gathering. Wolfram Corp can profile user and possibly predict what she will do ? a not so hypothetical example. what if we know it was sold to research division who control and make policy. Based on user patterns here and there simple info will help us predict whether they will do this or that ... Banks, federal banks, Bank of England ? whether they will raise interest rates or cut them, other policy institutions.

A simple footnote privacy http://www.wolfram.com/legal/privacy/wolfram-mathematica.html pointer is not really an answer to what is going on here.

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For those who vote to close, I really don't think Wolfram Community is the only place to ask this. And I don't think it's off topic at all. Maybe the closers should comment? –  acl Jul 15 at 14:29
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I agree with acl as well: I think this should remain open. If anything, Wolfram Community might not be the place to ask this. –  rm -rf Jul 15 at 14:32
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@nathan so, basically your question is "how could I detect an application maliciously communicating behind my back and actively trying to avoid detection"? That's not a mathematica question. –  acl Jul 15 at 14:58
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This question is clearly on topic. I vote to reopen it because I think there should be a place, not connected or censored by Wolfram Inc. where information about our privacy can be found. Even if it weren't directly on-topic. This Q has 11 upvotes which suggests that there is bigger number of people who would highly appreciate an answer. –  halirutan Jul 15 at 15:16

2 Answers 2

There is a setting in Mathematica that controls whether it can access the internet. Go to Preferences -> Internet Connectivity and uncheck "Allow the Wolfram System to access the Internet". Disabling this will disable some features that depend on internet access, such as Wolfram|Alpha queries.

This setting can also be controlled by the $AllowInternet global variable.


When doing Wolfram|Alpha queries, Mathematica can send additional information to Wolfram|Alpha about the current session to aid the interpretation of natural language input.

This can be controlled in Preferences -> Internet Connectivity -> Wolfram Alpha Settings. The default setting is "Ask before sending". With this setting, Mathematica will present a dialog box like the following before sending the information:

Opening "Details" will show the information that is being sent with the current request.


When searching the Documentation Center, in the top right corner will be a small piece of text saying "$n$ results on all Wolfram sites", unless you have disallowed Internet access. This number $n$ is produced by a WRI server that receives your search, as well as your $LicenseID and your computer's $MachineID. The full query URL is:

http://search.wolfram.com/lucene/numberofhits.jsp?query=<your query>&collection=tryonall&mathid=<$MachineID>&license=<$LicenseID>

It does not seem to matter if you substitute incorrect or nonsensical values for the mathid and license fields, or omit them completely--you will get your result anyway. Presumably this means that WRI does not really care about the contents of these fields, so perhaps their reason to include them was as a tool for defending against possible DOS attacks on their server.

The obvious implication of this is that one should not search for sensitive search terms with Internet access enabled. However, the likelihood of revealing any confidential information through searches in the Mathematica documentation seems realistically quite remote, unless you have a tendency to make rather unconventional searches.


The DemonstrationsTools` package, which supports the authoring of demonstrations, contains vestigial code for the DemonstrationTemplateOpen function (which opens the authoring template notebook) that obtains the template from the Wolfram server, if it does not exist on the local machine, using a query that includes the $LicenseID and $MachineID as part of the URL.

This code is vestigial because, directly below this code, the function is immediately redefined to avoid the use of Import, and the redefined version does not include these fields any more.


The paclet manager, which is responsible for documentation updates, providing the data sources for the *Data functions, and updates to some packages (e.g. CUDALink`), sends the following to the paclet server when it communicates with it:

  • $SystemID
  • $LicenseID
  • $MachineID
  • the language of this copy of Mathematica (English, Chinese, or Japanese)
  • $ActivationKey (i.e. the extended $LicenseID)

I have not checked to see whether or not it matters that these values are present and correct.


Information sent

In most contacts with Wolfram|Alpha or the paclet servers for the *Data family some data about the user and his platform is transmitted. This includes:

  • App id
  • MMA release id (10.0.0)
  • System ID (Windows-x86-64 etc.)
  • License number
  • Machine ID

All in all not very frightening if you have a legit installation, but it allows WRI to track you all over the world whenever you use Mathematica (but many web sites can do that too).

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This community wiki answer is incomplete and should be expanded. –  Szabolcs Jul 15 at 19:06
    
This is incomplete. IP is also sent out. a detail blatantly omitted what other details too. Also, in V10 Wolfram forces you to be kept connected otherwise the Kernel crashes ? Point is I am not paying > 1.5K USD to be constantly tracked by them about what I am doing. Matlab and Maple don't do such a thing. –  nathan Jul 15 at 22:29
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@nathan Do you realize that network communication fundamentally depends on sending the IP? Please use the chatroom for further comments, especially ranting, as the comment thread is long enough as it is. –  Szabolcs Jul 15 at 22:44
    
Not ranting but observing. I'll make use of chat, thanks. –  nathan Jul 15 at 22:52
    
@nathan First you need to register an account here, then if you still can't access chat, write a comment here and I'll grant explicit access. –  Szabolcs Jul 15 at 22:53

Some services provided by Mathematica require Mathematica to access our servers through the internet.

The privacy policy on this topic can be found here:

http://www.wolfram.com/legal/privacy/wolfram-mathematica.html

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