Like other modern web browsers, Apple’s Safari has a few features that send your data over the Internet. For example, Safari sends all your searches to Apple with the default settings. We don’t recommend you disable all these features, as they do useful things. But we’ll explain what the various options do so you can make informed decisions.

If you just want to browse privately without leaving tracks on your own PC, open a private browsing window by clicking File > New Private Browsing Window.

Pick Which Browser Data Your Mac Syncs

The macOS operating system synchronizes your Safari browsing data, including your bookmarks, open tabs, and saved passwords, to iCloud if you sign into your Mac with an Apple ID. This allows you to access your saved data on other Macs, iPhones, and iPads. You can also restore this data quickly on a new Mac just by signing in with the same Apple ID.

To control which data your Mac syncs, click Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud.

If “Safari” is checked here, your Mac will synchronize your Safari browser data. If “Keychain” is checked, your Mac will synchronize passwords you’ve saved in Safari and other applications.

Control What Safari Does With Your Searches

To access search settings, launch Safari, click Safari > Preferences, and click the “Search” icon at the top of the window.

  • Include search engine suggestions: As you type in Safari’s address bar, Safari will send your keystrokes to the search engine you select here. You’ll see suggested searches appear as you type. If you disable this, Safari will only send your searches to your search engine when you press Enter to search.
  • Include Safari suggestions: As you type in Safari’s address bar, Safari will send your keystrokes and your geographical location to Apple’s servers. Safari will then show you suggestions for content like news, and Wikipedia articles, weather information. If you disable this option, Safari won’t send your searches or location to Apple.

RELATED: How to Disable Spotlight's Web Searches on Mac, iPhone, and iPad

If you don’t want Safari sending your searches over the Internet as you type, you may also want to disable online searches in the Spotlight search feature on your Mac. This will prevent Spotlight from sending your searches to Apple and Bing, but you won’t see suggestions and search results from the web in Spotlight.

The other settings here aren’t as relevant to privacy, but here’s what they do:

  • Enable Quick Website Search: When you search on a website, Safari can remember you’ve searched that website. You can then quickly allow you to search that website again by typing the name of the website followed by your search into Safari’s address bar. Click “Manage Websites” here to see which websites Safari has remembered. Safari will only send information over the web if you specifically choose to search a website.
  • Preload Top Hit in the background: When you’re typing in the address bar, Safari may choose to preload the top search result in the background to save you time. If you disable this feature, Safari will never load a search result until you choose it.
  • Show Favorites: Safari shows your favorite websites below the search field. If you disable this option, Safari won’t display your favorites here. This is only a privacy concern if you’re worried about people seeing your favorites over your shoulder while you type in the address bar.

Choose Phishing and Malware Protection

On the Security pane in Safari’s preferences window, the “Warn when visiting a fraudulent website” option is enabled by default. Like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, Safari uses the Google Safe Browsing service to attempt to protect you from dangerous phishing and malware websites.

When this option is enabled, Safari automatically downloads a list of known-dangerous websites from Google and keeps it up to date. When you visit a web page, Safari checks if its address appears on the list. If it does, Safari sends the full address to Google to verify if the web page is actually dangerous. If it is, Safari blocks it and shows you a warning page instead.

In summary, Safari contacts Google to download a list of dangerous websites. Safari will only send the address of web pages you visit to Google if you appear to be visiting a dangerous website that appears on the list.

We strongly recommend you leave this option enabled, as it helps protect you from fraudulent and malicious websites.

Manage Privacy Options

The “Privacy” pane contains options that control what websites can do, including:

RELATED: Clearing Your Cookies All the Time Makes the Web More Annoying

  • Cookies and website data: By default, Safari accepts cookies from websites you visit. Websites require cookies to keep you logged in and save your browsing preferences, but they are also used for tracking web advertising. You can choose to block cookies from here, but then you won’t be able to sign into websites and the web will be much more annoying. The “Allow from current website only” feature is a bit more aggressive and will block some tracking cookies from third-party websites. These are often used for advertising tracking, but can be used for other purposes.
  • Website use of location services: This option controls whether websites can access your precise geographical location via location services. Websites always have to ask for your permission before viewing your location. To prevent websites from asking for your location, select “Deny without prompting”.
  • Website tracking: The “Ask websites not to track me” option is disabled by default. If you enable it, Safari will send a “Do Not Track” request with your web browsing traffic. This is just a request, and most websites will ignore it. “Do Not Track” isn’t a silver bullet.
  • Apple Pay: You can “Allow websites to check if Apple Pay is set up” on your Mac. if you don’t want to use Apple Pay on websites in Safari, feel free to disable this option.

Your Mac automatically keeps Safari and the rest of your operating system up to date. You can manage your update settings by heading to System Preferences > App Store, but you shouldn’t prevent Safari from updating. Whatever browser you use, it’s crucial you have the latest version with the latest security updates to stay safe online. If you don’t, malicious websites you visit will be able to attack your Mac through your browser.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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