Apple has long been sending data to Google Safe Browsing to warn users about phishing scams and malicious websites.
The practice is known to all of us, but apparently, it isn't just Google that is receiving information from the Cupertino company.
Several users have reported that the platform is also sending some browsing data to Chinese giant Tencent.
Here's all about it.
How this data sharing works?
Whenever a user visits a website, Safari's 'Fraudulent Website Warning' feature sends some information about that site to Google and Tencent's Safe Browsing systems - to check if the page is safe to open.
If the systems give a green light there, the page in question opens on the browser. If not, it blocks it right there, saving users from getting phished.
What kind of information goes to Tencent, Google
People using Safari on iOS 13 (and probably iOS 12.2 and newer) spotted the case of data sharing in Apple's acknowledgment buried inside Safari settings.
The disclaimer noted that the browsing data going over to Tencent and Google may include information collated from a website address as well as the IP addresses of users.
It even says the company may log these IP addresses.
Now, this raises some concerns
While the practice of IP address logging appears directly related to keeping these anti-phishing systems up and running, some think that Tencent, which has closely been involved with the Chinese government, might give away this data for tracking and surveillance.
Matthew Green from John Hopkins University had previously noted that site request data could be linked to de-anonymize a surfer and reveal their identity.
Then, this can be used for targeting dissidents
And if the authoritarian Chinese government gets a way to identify users from the browsing data their devices send to Tencent, it could easily find dissidents, people voicing their own opinion against the government, and take action against them.
No comment from Apple but you can turn safe-browsing off
So far, Apple has not commented on the matter or what it is doing to protect the identity of users.
However, if you find this feature intrusive, simply stop data-sharing by heading over to Settings > Safari and turning 'Fraudulent Website Warning' off. Doing this will keep your browsing data safe, but will make you susceptible to unsafe websites.