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Safari: The Only Private Browser for iOS Devices

Right now, Safari is the only iOS browser to offer a Do Not Track privacy feature that discourages advertisers from online tracking.

Google issued an update for Chrome on iOS that disabled a number of minor settings, including Do Not Track. Mozilla’s Firefox for iOS doesn’t offer the anti-tracking feature either.

You may not notice the change immediately as Google seems to be implementing the update gradually. In addition to Do Not Track, the latest version of Chrome disabled Data Saver, auto-detect encoding, in-browser Cookie settings, and enterprise support.

What happened to Chrome?

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The change was caused by Chrome’s recent move to WKWebView API by Apple, which is available only on iOS 8 and higher. Google is determined to make use of the API (which was introduced in 2014 alongside iOS 8) because it puts third-party browsers on par with Safari. Before the API, they were forced to use an older and slower engine as Apple doesn’t permit third-party browsers to run their own engines on iOS.

Google mentioned that the brand new Chrome for iOS decreased the browser’s crash rate by 70%. JavaScript rendering additionally got a boost due to WKWebView installed and web compatibility improved.

It seems like Google decided to sacrifice privacy in favor of speed and balance for its iOS customers. However, there might be more to it than that. Do Not Track was poorly implemented from the start and was pretty much a message saying “please don’t monitor this browser.” But advertisers are free to ignore this request, and many do. It’s so useless that major websites like Yahoo decided not to pay it any attention. Many browser makers don’t even turn it on and bury the feature in browser settings. For PC and Mac users, a far better option is to employ aggressive anti-monitoring extensions like Privacy Badger by Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Well, that only leaves Safari

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Image credit: ymgerman / Shutterstock

Despite Safari using the same type of underpinnings as iOS Chrome, Apple has allowed special advantages to its own technology. Safari, unlike Chrome and Firefox, can make alterations to the header requests sent to websites by the browser. This is essential for Do Not Track feature to work – it can’t be implemented without header changes.

If you want to browse privately on iOS but have a dislike for Safari, your best choice is to make use of an incognito window in Chrome. You’ll be tracked nonetheless, but only for that session, rendering the tracking pretty much useless. Look to our compilation of best browsers for iPhone to learn about all your options.

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