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If you use this dark mode app for Mac, you should uninstall it now

Published Aug 11th, 2023 4:28PM EDT
NightOwl app for Mac.
Image: NightOwl

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Several years ago, we recommended a clever Mac app called NightOwl. The app allows you to set your own schedules for dark mode and light mode, toggle between the two with hotkeys, and have the modes switch back and forth based on the position of the sun. Unfortunately, the app is no longer run by its original creator, and the new owners have put some very troubling language in their updated terms and conditions.

As spotted by Taylor Robinson, TPE.FYI LLC acquired the app from software engineer Benjamin Krasser in December 2022. In a note on his website, Krasser explains that the company decided to monetize the app by integrating a third-party SDK, which he didn’t endorse.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to Robinson, NightOwl “forcibly joins your devices into a botnet for use of market research” once you install it. TPE.FYI LLC does mention this in its terms and conditions, which are available on the NightOwl website:

WHEREAS, NightOwl app enables Users to share internet traffic by modifying their device’s network settings to be used as a gateway for internet traffic. Additionally, the User’s device acts as a gateway for NightOwl app’s Clients, including companies that specialize in web and market research, SEO, brand protection, content delivery, cybersecurity, etc.

Apple has since revoked the app’s signing certificate, which means you probably won’t be able to open it on your Mac, even if you installed it prior to the acquisition. There is also now a note that pops up on addressing Robinson’s claims:

We want to address recent claims that NightOwl contains malware. We want to assure you that these claims are inaccurate and false. Our app does not contain any form of malware. The concerns raised are based on a mistaken identification, and we are actively working with all major antivirus companies to rectify this situation promptly.

Your security and trust are of utmost importance to us. We kindly ask for your patience as we address this matter with the necessary parties. Thank you for your understanding.

Whether or not NightOwl is forcing users to join a botnet (which the terms seem to imply it does), it might be worth deleting the app, at least until all of this is sorted out. If you want to know how to safely remove the app and whatever comes with it, visit Robinson’s website.

UPDATE | 8/13: NightOwl’s PR team reached out to us and claimed that Robinson is “spreading false information.” As for the language from the terms and conditions, the company says that it “partnered with a highly reputable residential proxy service to monetize NightOwl.” They explain that the SDK they added to the backend of the app “allows our partner’s users to send some requests through the NightOwl user’s IP address.” They claim to only collect their users’ IP addresses and add that thousands of other apps use similar monetization practices.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.