How to improve security in Safari Private Browsing with iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma

How to improve security in Safari Private Browsing with iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma


How to make Safari Private Browsing much more private
Safari Private Browsing mode will soon get multiple new features to prevent online tracking.
Photo: Killian Bell/Ed Hardy

Private Browsing mode in Apple Safari will soon get even more secure. It’ll be locked against someone else accessing it, and incorporate new tools to prevent websites from tracking users.

The additional privacy features are coming in iOS 17, macOS Sonoma and iPadOS 17, all of which were unveiled at WWDC23 this week.

Apple making Safari Private Browsing even better

Concerns about online privacy caused Apple to build Private Browsing mode into Safari years ago. It takes steps to thwart companies like Google and Meta that track everything we do online. But Private Browsing mode has limitations.

With iOS 17, iPadOS 17, etc., Apple added an array of new features to enable the mode to offer even more protection.

Lock it down with Face ID

With Safari 17, you can walk away from your computer without worrying about open windows being seen by others.
With Safari 17, you can walk away from your computer without worrying about open windows being seen by others.
Photo: Apple

Soon, simply accessing Private Browsing mode will be blocked for anyone who isn’t the primary user of the computer.

On iPhone and iPad, getting through Face ID will be required. On Mac, users can employ Touch ID or enter a password.

This will prevent someone who has physical access to your computer from seeing what’s happening in Private Browsing. Now there’s no reason to close these tabs when they’re not in immediate use.

How to lock Safari Private Browsing mode
How to lock Safari Private Browsing mode on iOS 17 and macOS Sonoma.
Screenshots: Ed Hardy/D. Griffin Jones/Cult of Mac

To active this on iPhone or iPad, go to Settings -> Safari -> Require Face ID to Unlock Private Browsing. On Mac, go to Settings -> Safari -> Privacy tab > Require password to view locked tabs.

Switch to a more private search engine

Switch Safari Private Browsing mode to a more private search engine
You can soon switch Safari Private Browsing mode to a more private search engine.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

You might prefer Google as your regular search engine, but should use one that’s less relentless about gathering data about users when doing Private Browsing. Fortunately, the upcoming version of Safari will allow you to set a separate search engine just for this mode.

With the upcoming updates for iPhone or iPad, go to Settings -> Safari -> Private Search Engine and choose from among the options. One of them is DuckDuckGo, which is dedicated to user privacy.

Blocking trackers and fingerprinting

Naturally, Safari Private Browsing already prevents unscrupulous companies from tracking you with cookies. On top of that, the upcoming enhanced version will remove the extra information some companies add to their URLs for user tracking.

Shady companies also use a technique called fingerprinting to try to identify computers by their exact hardware and software configuration. The upcoming version of Private Browsing mode works to block that.

“Advanced tracking and fingerprinting protections go even further to help prevent websites from using the latest techniques to track or identify a user’s device,” promises Apple.

There’s not anything you have to do for these features. They’re built into Private Browsing mode.

More control over browser extensions

You can add extensions to your browser to find online deals or add Dark Mode to websites. The upcoming version of Safari Private Browsing turns these off because they can track what sites you visit.

Apple promises that extensions “can be turned on later in Safari settings,” but that feature doesn’t seem to be implemented yet in the first betas of iOS 17 and iPadOS 17.

Better IP address protection

Private Relay is part of iCloud+, and prevents websites from tracking users via their IP address. With the new version of Private Browsing mode, the service expands the pool of alternative IP address it uses so companies have even less idea of your location.

If you have Private Relay set to provide IP addresses from your general area when doing regular browsing, Private Browsing will automatically switch to IP addresses drawn from anywhere in your country and time zone.

Taking advantage of this enhanced privacy feature for Private Relay requires subscribing to iCloud+. But this service also comes with 50GB of data for just 99 cents a month. (More storage costs extra, of course.) And Private Relay protects your privacy all the time, not only when using Safari Private Browsing, for almost no cost.

Safari Private Browsing enhancements coming this fall

Although Apple announced the improvements to Safari Private Browsing at WWDC23, it’ll be some time before average users will be able to take advantage of them. As noted, the changes are part of iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma, which are‘t expected until September 2023 or later.


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