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Ensuring Privacy When Using the Mac Safari browser

You can remove all records that macOS’s Safari keeps of where you’ve browsed during a period of time if you wish. If your Mac and your other devices have Safari turned on in iCloud preferences, your browsing history is removed from all of them.

To use iCloud on your Mac, sign in to iCloud using your existing Apple ID, or a new one, then choose the iCloud features you wish to use.

Related article: Rocket Yard Testing Lab – Which Browser is Fastest?

To manually clear history on Safari, open the web browser and choose History > Clear History. Click the pop-up menu and choose how far back you want your browsing history cleared. History will also be removed on any other devices signed into our iCloud account.

However, clearing your browsing history in Safari doesn’t clear any browsing histories kept independently by websites you visited. Choose History > Clear History, click the pop-up menu, then choose how far back you want your browsing history cleared.

When you clear your history, Safari removes all the data it saves as a result of your browsing, including the history of webpages you visited, the back and forward list for open webpages, Top Sites that aren’t marked as permanent, your frequently visited site list, recent searches, and more. So make sure you really want to remove all this data before you clear your Safari history.

But there’s more than can be done to ensure more online privacy. Some websites use third-party content providers to track you across websites so they can try and sell you their products or services. You can help prevent this by going to Safari > Preferences, click Privacy, and choose “Prevent cross-site tracking.” Unless you visit the third-party content provider, their tracking data is periodically deleted.

You can also ask websites not to track you. In Safari’s Preferences, click Privacy, and choose “Ask websites not to track me.” When you visit a website, a request is submitted not to track you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll honor your request.

Note that Apple will remove the Do Not Track feature of Safari in the next update of iOS and macOS. Apple is shifting its focus to a new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature.

Finally, you can enable Private Browsing in Safari so the browser doesn’t save your browsing history, and it asks websites you visit not to track you. To enable this choose File > New Private Window. A window that’s using Private Browsing has a dark Smart Search field with white text.

Websites can’t modify information stored on your device, so services normally available at such sites may work differently until you turn off Private Browsing. Also, note that if you use Handoff, Private Browsing windows aren’t passed to your iOS devices or other Macs.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Contributing Author
Dennis has over 40 years of journalism experience and has written hundreds of articles. For the past 20-plus years, he's been an online journalist, covering mainly Apple Inc. He's written for MacCentral, MacWorld, MacMinute, Macsimum News, Apple Daily Report, and is now contributing editor at Apple World Today.
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  • I’ve become something of a privacy/security freak over the last couple of years, particularly after having one of my bank accounts hacked THREE TIMES last year. I’ve since purchased two lifetime subscriptions to two different reputable VPN services and have begun investigating the merits of web browsers other than Safari since there doesn’t seem to be an abundance of third-party plug-ins/extensions for Safari.

    That being said, I don’t care for the look and feel of Firefox or Opera, the two alternate browsers I use the most and I really like having a big Favorites button page.

    I’m hoping Apple will step up to the plate and provide us with more and better tools which can help us safeguard our privacy, because the “request websites not to track you” is a joke. In my case it seems to provoke these clowns into inundating me even more!

    Incidentally, the culprit in allowing my bank account getting hacked was my wallet itself. I’ve since invested in a nice RFID resistant wallet and the problem seems to be solved. I advise everyone who carries a credit or debit card to do the same.

  • Thanks for that, useful. But can you explain one strange phenomenon I see: I regularly delete all cookies and caches from the preferences/ privacy screen. I also run little snitch which advises me when Safari tries to make outgoing connections. In spite of deleting all cookies and caches, quite often when launching Safari it will attempt to connect to websites that I have literally not visited in months, even though my home page, BBC.Co.UK is hardly a den of commercial activity. Where is this link to a page I have no regular contact with being stored? the ones I notice are genuine commercial companies from which I have maybe bought something months ago, but why while launching the BBC website is Safari still trying to connect to them?