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syster wrote

Without getting into why, I’m thinking of getting a Mac. I’m concerned about what sort of surveillance and abuses Apple conducts, but I don’t know any of the specifics.

btw: I don't know much about Apple things and I'm also not really following their abusive practice over their consumers, but you might like to take a look here: It is not specific to MacOS, but about Apple's software in general.

In short: Since it is propritary software, apple is in absolute control what it does. That includes backdoors, that they can use any time they please. Obviously there are legal limitations and consumer presure that limit malicious practice to some extend.

About surveillance:

"Apple whistleblower Thomas Le Bonniec reports that Apple made a practice of surreptitiously activating the Siri software to record users' conversations when they had not activated Siri. This was not just occasional, it was systematic practice. His job was to listen to these recordings, in a group that made transcripts of them. He does not believes that Apple has ceased this practice."

Also this: "macOS Leaks Application Usage..."

And if there are any ways to minimize their tracking and control?

As far as I understand: Any solution is based on the "good will" of apple, because when using Apple's software, you have no control over what it does, you can only hope that it does what apple proclaims, while knowing that they have continuously proven to be dishonest to their users. Using a MacOS in a country with legal restriction to user data harvesting without consent should provide some protection (and making sure to not give them consent...but I don't know how well their products are usable if you don't consent).

But know this:

Depending on your thread model, you're just fine with MacOS. People tend to say it's less worse then Windows. I don't know if that's really true. Depending on your thread model, you're also just fine with Windows. My thread model always includes something about how technology shapes and influences society, and what negative consequences there are that I'm not ok with, and how I can act towards countering it.

(Before anyone says it, I don’t think GNU/Linux is a good option for me. I need something simple with acceptable security, and something that allows me to lock down exactly what I can do, sort of like parental controls.)

Ok, then MacOS isn't a good fit for you. MacOS does not give you this control. They can overwrite remotely any software you install, and they have done this in the past already.You have no control over that. Linux/freeBSD systems are far from perfect but they are kind of a golden standard security wise. The issues about sandoxing and privilege escalation that the article mentioned can easily (good enough) circumvented by choosing a distro that gives such protection by default. I haven't used Ubuntu since long, but I thing even they ship their default software with sanboxing profiles these days, but I'm not sure.(I'm not advocating Ubuntu, I only name it because it's one of the famous linux distro, and is absolutely not centered around privacy/security) Another practice is using sandoxed virtual machines, thought these days they are kind of easy to use. (see Whonix for example)

But obviously that also depends on what you wish to do, and what software you believe you need to use. Since you don't mentioned the reason you plan to use MacOS, I can't have an opinion on that. If it is for security reasons, I would highly recommend to not use MacOS. If it is because there is a specific software that you need to use, that is only available in MacOS, then I would recomment MacOs. most cases there is a software that does at least something similar and can run on a Linux machine. If you have a specific question in that regard, feel free to ping me, maybe I can help, maybe not.

btw: You can use most/all? Laptops that run with MacOS to also run a live OS system such as Tails. Like this you could have MacOS for your daily whatsoever, and use Tails whenever you feel the need for some more privacy. For Questions related to Tails, feel free to ask here: /f/tails.