Over the years, we’ve seen security breach after security breach, as well as high-profile data scandals where collected personal information was misused by companies. Apple makes customer privacy a priority, so there have been few issues to worry about when it comes to its services on your iPhone. However, there are still plenty of privacy settings to explore and change, especially within Safari.
It should go without saying that privacy and the internet do not mix. As you browse the web, every move you make is logged by your ISP, the site you’re visiting, even sites you’ve visited in the past. But taking the proper precautions can help reduce the data you emit when using Safari.
Apple has a ton of privacy-related features for Safari, many of which are enabled by default, but there are still plenty of settings you should check to make sure you’re surfing the web as securely as possible.
Cookies aren’t tasty on the internet. Instead, they’re nuggets of data stored by websites on your iPhone, so they can remember particular preferences and activities the next time you come back. And just like discussed with cross-site tracking, these cookies can be used by advertisers to follow along with your browsing activity.
You can choose “Block All Cookies” in the Safari settings to prevent any cookies from working when you’re browsing the web. Doing so will also delete all cookies that have been stored already. And since cookies are directly related to cross-site tracking, it will automatically enable that feature since you can’t block cookies without also preventing cross-site tracking.
However, many sites and functions won’t work unless you have cookies enabled. For instance, you’ll be logged out of any sites you visit as soon as you close the tab. You might not even be able to sign in to specific websites. Websites can even block you from accessing content without cookies enabled. So you may need to turn it back on. In that case, we suggest preventing cross-site tracking and clearing your cookies every once in a while.
If you don’t want to block all cookies since it could make using Safari pretty inconvenient at times, it’s at least worth deleting cookies every now and then. You can delete them for sites individually or on a mass scale.
Tap “Advanced” in Safari’s settings, then “Website Data.” Here, you can see all the cookies stored on your iPhone, as well as how much space each takes up. You can delete entries by swiping left on each or by tapping “Edit,” hitting the red button next to an entry, then tapping “Delete.” To delete all cookies, select “Remove All Website Data.”
When you don’t want sites to track your browsing activity or don’t want friends and family members to see what you’ve been up to, simply clear your history. On any Safari tab, tap the “Bookmarks” icon in the bottom menu, then the clock icon to access your history. From here, you can left-swipe on any entry to delete it. To get rid of all of it, tap “Clear” at the bottom, then choose your desired timeframe for deletion.
If you don’t want to save either your browsing history or the cookies stored on your iPhone, as well as the cache, there’s a delete-all switch available. From the Safari settings, tap “Clear History and Website Data” to clear all browsing data. While it won’t remove your saved passwords or bookmarks, you won’t have to worry about most remnants of your web activity being accessible to anyone else.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks’ special coverage on smartphone privacy and security. Check out the whole Privacy and Security series.