Home Apple’s ‘incredibly private’ Safari users could still be tracked in Europe

Apple’s ‘incredibly private’ Safari users could still be tracked in Europe


  • Apple's compliance with EU regulations leads to potential web activity tracking loopholes for Safari users.
  • Developers uncover flaws allowing third-party app access, potentially compromising user privacy in iOS 17.4.
  • Security experts recommend alternative privacy-driven browsers like Brave or DuckDuckGo for European iOS users.

Apple’s latest clash with the EU has left European Safari users potentially vulnerable to web activity tracking.

Apple has a history of attempting to dodge EU regulations, even getting slapped with a €1.8 billion fine for streaming violations in March. Now, the company’s final cave-in to European antitrust rules by allowing third-party apps on iPhones has left users potentially vulnerable to web activity tracking.

Previously, Apple’s Safari has been touted as a private, safe way to browse. Now, however, as reported by The Register, developers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk have uncovered that the way Apple has allowed third-party apps access leaves potential privacy gaps.

Essentially, when visited by Safari by iOS, any website can pin a chosen approved software marketplace with a unique identifier for every user. As users move from site to site, that information can be quietly disclosed to a third-party (aka non-Apple) app store. This tracking data can be user for targeted ads and other data-driven personalization.

Is there a real risk to Apple Safari users?

As it stands, this risk appears to only apply to iOS 17.4 users in the EU and there aren’t yet any reports of the privacy gap being exploited. However, the potential appears to be there.

“Our testing shows that Apple delivered this feature with catastrophic security and privacy flaws,” wrote Bakry and Mysk in an advisory published on April 28.

The major failings of Apple, according to the developer duo, is that: it fails to check the origin of the website, allowing for unsupervised tracking; it doesn’t validate the JSON Web Tokens, ‘opening the door’ for malicious targeting; and it lacks certificate pinning, offering room for an intermediary to access the communication.

iOS users in Europe are urged to use a different privacy-driven browser, such as Brave or DuckDuckGo, which both plug the gaps that Safari has left open in Europe.

Featured image: Unsplash

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Rachael Davies
Tech Journalist

Rachael Davies has spent six years reporting on tech and entertainment, writing for publications like the Evening Standard, Huffington Post, Dazed, and more. From niche topics like the latest gaming mods to consumer-faced guides on the latest tech, she puts her MA in Convergent Journalism to work, following avenues guided by a variety of interests. As well as writing, she also has experience in editing as the UK Editor of The Mary Sue , as well as speaking on the important of SEO in journalism at the Student Press Association National Conference. You can find her full portfolio over on…

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