Safari instantly protects you from most web threats. But it is not immune to all risks. Malicious agents are constantly inventing new methods to bypass your browser’s protections and track you online. Fortunately, you can go into Safari’s settings and increase security in a few clicks.
Apple offers many advanced security measures in Safari. However, many of them are disabled by default. From the settings, you can manually set Safari to prevent trackers from tracking you across sites, hide your IP address from sneaky advertisers, block the little bits of data called cookies that websites store on your device, and more. Here’s how to make Safari even more personal.
Prevent cross-site tracking
When you browse the web, websites install various trackers on your device to keep track of you and your activity on the web. They also collect information on your device, such as operating system version and screen size, and misuse it to uniquely identify you, no matter what website you are on. Safari can put a stop to these efforts by actively clearing trackers from your device and presenting a general device configuration to websites.
To enable cross-site tracking in Safari’s Mac app, go to the “Preferences” and under the “Privacy” tab, check the “Website Tracking” option. On your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > Safari > Prevent Cross-Site Tracking.
You can check how effective Safari has been at crushing trackers from the homepage under the ‘Privacy Report’ section.
Hide your IP address
One of the most important metrics websites get from your device’s specs is its IP address. This is the identification number of your computer or phone, and once a tracker has access to it, it can detect your location, what connections you have established and more personal information. However, the IP address is also critical to web browsing and its many fundamental functions.
Fortunately, Safari allows you to hide your IP address without affecting your normal activities. The option is available under Safari > Preferences > Privacy on macOS and Settings > Safari > Hide IP Address on iOS and iPadOS.
Ban all cookies
Cookies allow websites to identify you. It’s built so that when you visit a site again, it knows who you are and can automatically log you in or fill in your details. This data is not well protected and malicious parties can easily read your cookie data to find out which websites you have visited.
While Safari’s anti-tracking technology tries to prevent all third parties from misusing your cookie data, it’s not perfect and can allow entities to slip under the radar. Therefore, it is best to ban cookies altogether as it is an outdated technology anyway and websites are switching to new authentication mechanisms.
Check “Block all cookies” under Safari > Preferences > Privacy on your Mac and Settings > Safari > Block all cookies” on your iPhone or iPad.
You should also clear all cookies that websites have stored on your device thus far. Do that from Safari > Preferences > Privacy > Manage Website Data > Delete All on macOS and Settings > Safari > Clear History and Website on iPad and iPadOS.
This can break websites that rely heavily on cookies and prevent them from loading. In that case, you can temporarily allow them and disable them again.
View site permissions
Like apps, websites require permissions to perform certain tasks in your browser. For example, the Google Maps web app will ask you to give permission to access your location. Likewise, Facebook Messenger needs access to your device’s microphone for calls.
Once you grant a website permission, it can access it forever unless you manually revoke it. That’s why it’s vital to check which sites occasionally access critical permissions and cancel the sites you no longer need.
Go to Safari > Preferences > Websites on your Mac and on the left you’ll find a list of different permissions, such as ‘Camera’, ‘Microphone’ and ‘Location’. When you click on it, you will see which websites have access to it. You can revoke a website’s consent by selecting it and clicking the “Remove” button.
You cannot view individual site permissions on your iPhone or iPad† Instead, your only option is to have websites ask for approval before they can access your device’s camera, microphone, and location. For the camera permission, for example, go to Settings > Safari > Camera and check the “Ask” option. If you set this to “Decline”, requests from websites for your camera will be automatically rejected.
Install privacy-protecting extensions
You are not limited by the features built into Safari. You can choose from an extensive catalog of third-party extensions to add the security tools missing from Apple’s browser.
The DuckDuckGo add-on (opens in new tab), for example, tells you how invasive a website is, blocks trackers, and automatically deletes cookies from the websites you had to manually allow or they wouldn’t work. Another free extension called Quiet (opens in new tab) rejects those annoying cookie and tracker popups for you. You can browse all Safari extensions through Safari > Preferences > Extensions > More Extensions on a Mac and Settings > Safari > Extensions > More Extensions on an iPhone or iPad.