Avoid per­sis­tent track­ing on an iOS de­vice

All browsers let you go incog­nito when you want to pre­vent leav­ing vir­tual foot­prints Glenn Fleish­man shows how

iPad&iPhone user - - NEWS -

Say you find your­self us­ing the Web on a strange com­puter – maybe one owned by a rel­a­tive or friend, or in a li­brary or school. When us­ing a com­puter or other de­vice that you don’t con­trol, you can en­able a pri­vate-brows­ing mode to pre­vent leav­ing traces of your ac­tiv­i­ties. That’s good for ac­ci­den­tal se­cu­rity, as it keeps the next user of the de­vice from vis­it­ing a site with your cre­den­tials, set in a cookie or via a lo­gin, when they didn’t

in­tend to. This an even bet­ter idea for shared com­put­ers where the sub­se­quent user is some­one you don’t know.

Like­wise, you can set some­one else up with pri­vate brows­ing on your Mac, so that they don’t have ac­cess to your set­tings (guest mode in Chrome) or can’t change your set­tings (all modes), al­though browsers don’t let you ‘lock’ a browser into that mode. You get bet­ter pro­tec­tion by set­ting up a dif­fer­ent user ac­count on a desk­top Mac or us­ing the guest ac­count op­tion de­scribed next.

Each browser’s pri­vacy mode is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, so I’ll go through what kinds of data each de­stroys after a ses­sion and how to drop into the mode in each browser. As a gen­eral rule, while browsers in a pri­vate mode don’t keep a list of down­loaded files, those files do per­sist on your drive after a brows­ing ses­sion is over.

Pri­vate brows­ing doesn’t pre­cisely help with anonymity, or keep­ing your iden­tity dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine for a web­site on the other end or another party able to snoop your ac­tions at some dis­tant end point. It can, how­ever, pre­vent sites from ef­fec­tively de­posit­ing track­ing cook­ies and other nasty el­e­ments, be­cause when the pri­vate brows­ing ses­sion is over, ev­ery­thing as­so­ci­ated that’s cached is sup­posed to be dumped.

Pri­vate Brows­ing in Sa­fari for macOS and iOS

Ap­ple iso­lates what it calls Pri­vate Brows­ing tabs from your reg­u­lar brows­ing and from each other. Each tab can’t read in­for­ma­tion from other tabs. Ap­ple doesn’t record aut­ofill in­for­ma­tion en­tered or the pages you visit in a pri­vate brows­ing win­dow. It pre­vents in­for­ma­tion leak­age within the browser and through sync, too. It doesn’t pass pages through iCloud, so they don’t ap­pear on other de­vices’

lists of open tabs, and Hand­off doesn’t pass the open tab. Searches aren’t re­tained, and down­loads in macOS aren’t shown in the Down­loads list.

Sa­fari for macOS also blocks read­ing browser cook­ies from your reg­u­lar ses­sion and doesn’t store new ones after you close all pri­vate win­dows. Pri­vate brows­ing also blocks web­sites from us­ing lo­cal stor­age op­tions avail­able via HTML5.

Ap­ple’s de­tail about what hap­pens in iOS is sur­pris­ingly thin. On its sup­port site, the com­pany notes, “Pri­vate

Brows­ing pro­tects your pri­vate in­for­ma­tion and blocks some web­sites from track­ing your search be­hav­iour. Sa­fari won’t re­mem­ber the pages you visit, your search his­tory, or your Aut­oFill in­for­ma­tion.” It would be nice for iOS de­tails to have the same speci­ficity as those pro­vided for macOS, al­though in test­ing, they ap­pear to be ef­fec­tively the same.

In macOS, you cre­ate a Pri­vate Brows­ing win­dow in Sa­fari via File > New Pri­vate Win­dow (Com­mand-Shift-N). The new win­dow and any sub­se­quent pri­vate tabs you cre­ate have a dark back­ground in the URL/search field at the top. Ex­it­ing pri­vate browser mode is a tab-by-tab op­er­a­tion; you can close an in­di­vid­ual tab or a win­dow full of pri­vate tabs.

In iOS, you tap the win­dows view but­ton (which looks like two over­lap­ping square) or, in some views, like iPhone land­scape mode, you can pinch to get that view to ap­pear. Tap the Pri­vate but­ton, and it en­gages Pri­vate Brows­ing Mode. All tabs you open while in this mode are sub­ject to the same pri­vacy rules. Tap the Pri­vate but­ton again to exit that brows­ing mode.

With iOS, you can’t merely exit the mode to de­stroy pri­vate brows­ing tabs. In­stead, you have to bring up the win­dows view and close each tab one at a time. Other­wise, when you re­sume pri­vate brows­ing, the same tabs ap­pear that you left open in your last pri­vate ses­sion.

Keep it se­cret, keep it par­tially safe

Us­ing guest ac­counts and pri­vate brows­ing helps you pre­vent your surf­ing and your set­tings from com­min­gling with oth­ers’ on com­put­ers or iPads you might use in pass­ing, while also help­ing to en­sure that some­one else can’t scan back to see what you were up to later or ac­cess your ac­counts.

Turn to Sa­fari for pri­vate brows­ing in iOS, but be­ware: tabs re­main open when you exit the mode un­less you close them one by one

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