iOS 14.5 will route Google Safe Browsing through Apple servers

JC Torres - Feb 12, 2021, 12:44am CST
iOS 14.5 will route Google Safe Browsing through Apple servers

Apple is really going all out on its hard stance on privacy, especially considering the positive reception its upcoming anti-tracking features have had on consumers and advocates at the expense of the likes of Facebook. That, however, isn’t the only step it will be taking to ensure its users’ safety. Starting iOS 14.5, even Google’s Safe Browsing function will use Apple servers as a proxy to avoid any privacy leak at all.

Google has a Safe Browsing feature that practically a database of known phishing or fraudulent sites to whatever site you’re visiting. The purpose is to warn users if they’re visiting a suspicious site, especially if they mistyped the address or clicked on a misleading link. Apple uses this in Safari to protect its own users, labeled under the Fraudulent Website Warning feature.

The way it all works is that Google should never be able to see the exact URL that the user is visiting. Google, however, may still be able to actually see the user’s IP address during its communication with Safari, thereby still leaking a piece of the user’s information to Google.

To prevent even that small but important leak, Apple will be directing any and all Safe Browsing traffic through its own servers. What this means is that Apple’s proxy will stand in between Safari and Google, ensuring that the user’s IP address will never be seen by Google.

Compared to the Anti-Tracking Transparency policy, this is a relatively small change that will hopefully have no performance impact on the Safe Browsing feature. Whether Google agrees with this proxy is a different matter but it probably doesn’t have much reason to argue it would be harmful to the system’s overall effectiveness.


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