iOS: 8 Ways to Enhance Your Privacy & Security in Safari

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Apple provides several settings in iOS that enable better privacy and security in the Safari browser. I’ll show how to set these up and provide some background.

iOS Safari & Apple.
Safari is the iOS default browser.

In this how-to, I’ll use an iPhone. The entry point for this discussion is in iOS Settings > Safari. That’s the fifth major block in the first page of settings, so you’ll have to scroll down a bit. When you tap on “Safari,” you’ll see a long page of Safari Settings. (I’ve cut it in two and placed them side-by-side. The red numbers correspond to the text.)

iOS Safari Settings.
Safari settings are plentiful. Too many for one long vertical image.

1. The first thing you may want to adjust is the search engine. The DuckDuckGo search engine blocks ad trackers and keeps your search history private. Other search engines, like Google, capture your browsing history.

2. In the section below that, “General,” you can block annoying (or dangerous) Pop-ups. And you should. Apple advises:

Some pop-ups use phishing tactics—like warnings or prizes—to trick you into believing they’re from Apple or another trusted company, so you’ll share personal or financial information. Others might claim to offer free downloads, software updates, or plugins, to try to trick you into installing unwanted software.

The next major section below that (shown above on the right side) is labelled “Privacy and Security.”

3. You can prevent cross-site tracking, and you should probably turn that on. Apple provides more details on this.

4. Blocking all cookies is overly draconian. Many websites just won’t work if you block their cookies. So one approach is to leave this turned off and periodically “Clear History and Website Data” further down below the section. (Red arrow.) “Website data” includes cookies.

5. In the next field, “Ask Websites Not To Track Me,” that’s the infamous “Do Not Track” (DNT) flag. It’s not honored by most commercial websites, so turning it on won’t do much. Nevertheless, it may as well be left on. For some background on “Do Not Track,” see the Wikipedia discussion.

6. Fraudulent Website Warning. This should absolutely be turned on. It works by checking Safari’s requested URL against a blacklist of known fraudulent sites. For more details, see: “How to Use Your Web Browser’s Fraudulent Site Protection Feature.

7. If you routinely use a meeting or conferencing site in Safari, you’ll need to allow it to access your camera and microphone. Otherwise, this setting should be routinely turned off and enabled only on a case-by-case basis.

8. Check for Apple Pay. If you use Apple Pay primarily on your iPhone (and/or Apple Watch) in person at local businesses and don’t typically invoke it on a website, consider turning this setting off. As the annotation says, the option “allow[s] websites to check if Apple Pay is set up.” If you don’t want that check to happen, turn this setting off. It’s just another way to keep websites from collecting and cataloging information about you.

All Done … For Now

There many other privacy and security settings in iOS. A frequent audit of your settings after a major release of iOS is always a good idea. It’s something you can do in your dentist’s office while waiting. Meanwhile, these settings will get you off to a good start with conservative privacy and security settings in your iOS Safari browser.

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