Safari in iOS Sending Safe Browsing Data to Tencent

Ruben Fields
October 15, 2019

The latest issue was revealed when Reclaim The Net released an article on October 10 that issued a warning upon discovering that Apple is sending IP addresses from users of the Safari browser on iOS. This process is done to check whether or not the website a user is trying to visit is a phishing scheme attempting to steal personal information. That's normally a good thing, since Google takes this data, hashes what you're attempting to access, and is only able to sort-of match what you were looking for with your IP address. When the feature is enabled, Safari checks the website URL against lists of known websites and displays a warning if the URL the user is visiting is suspected of fraudulent conduct like phishing.

Essentially, Safari has a feature called "Fraudulent Website Warning" in iOS and macOS, which is meant to enhance online security by cross-referencing URLs against a blacklist service provided by safe browsing providers such as Google and Tencent.

But for this to work, browser makers, including Apple and Mozilla, "send information calculated from the website address to Safe Browsing providers to check if the website is fraudulent", aside from potentially logging your your IP address. If you're not, you don't have to stress - Google, not Tencent, is analysing the websites you're visiting to make sure they aren't trying to scam you.

The findings were published by a cryptographer, Matthew Green where he found in the privacy policy fine print that Apple uses Google and Tencent to determine if a website is fraudulent.

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Which brings us back to Tencent. In fact, Apple has long used Google's Safe Browsing technology.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he believes privacy is "ingrained in the Constitution", but that he's anxious about how third-party companies have worked to collect information on us. The statement comes Under the title "Fraudulent Website Warning". California-based video game giant Blizzard Entertainment recently faced backlash for banning a competitive "Hearthstone" player after he voiced his support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. Previously, Apple made a decision to ban a Hong protest app on the App Store to "best protects our [the] users". Apple CEO Tim Cook later doubled down on the decision, stating in a letter that the app was "in violation of Hong Kong law" despite some calling into question the legitimacy of Cook's claims.

Tencent is one of China's largest internet and gaming companies, but it also has a notorious reputation for helping the country's government censor the internet and even jail users for making controversial comments on its WeChat social messaging app.

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