Apple wants Safari in iOS to be your private browser

Apple seems focused on building Safari to become the world’s leading privacy-focused web browser, continuing development of under-the-hood enhancements to protect private lives.

Better privacy by proxy

Beginning with (currently in beta) iOS 14.5, Apple is improving privacy by changing how Safari accesses Google’s Safe Browsing service. The latter warns users when they visit a fraudulent website. (Apple uses the service to drive the “Fraudulent Website Warning” in Settings>Safari on iOS or iPadOS devices.)

The Safe Browsing service works by identifying potentially compromised sites from Google’s web index. If it suspects a site is compromised, virtual machines are despatched to see whether the site attempts to compromise them.

In the event it does, Google then flags it as being fraudulent. That’s a lot of technology, but for Safari users, it means you should receive a fraudulent website warning when Safari checks your destination against Google’s index.

To interrogate the service, it was originally necessary to share both the URL of the destination site and the user’s IP address. To help prevent data leaks, Apple already sends an encoded version of the site address. But in iOS 14.5 it begins to proxy the Safe Browsing service, routing requests through its own servers to hide the IP address of the person whose browser is making these requests.

Apple’s philosophy of privacy

The philosophy behind this is that no one other than yourself should know which sites you are visiting or learn your IP address. Maciej Stachowiak, Apple’s head of WebKit engineering, says it will “limit the risk of information leak.”

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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