Be Careful: Safari Will Sync Browser History in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8
Apple made it clear during its WWDC keynote on Monday that one of the company’s primary goals is to make the user experience across all of its products as consistent as possible. Initial steps were taken years ago with the launch of features like synced bookmarks and iCloud Tabs, and Apple upped the ante this week with a series of announcements related to document and messages syncing, phone call integration, and app “handoffs.”
One area that Apple didn’t detail during its keynote is Safari history. Safari 8.0, included as part of OS X Yosemite, introduces synced history, making the list of sites you visit available on all of your devices linked to the same iCloud account. Naturally, Apple has also introduced the ability to clear your history from all devices, too. Using the familiar option at Safari > History > Clear History warns you that “clearing will remove history on devices signed into your iCloud account.” This new process only clears the history list, and not cookies or other cached website data.
Apple has also taken a page from Google Chrome and now lets users decide if they want to clear history from all time, the past two days, the current day, or just the past hour.
Synced Safari history will be great for some users, but it also introduces privacy and safety concerns for those sharing Macs and iDevices. For example, parents who view adult content on their Mac will need to remember that their children with access to a family iPad with the same iCloud account will be able to see the browser history if they know where to look. More innocuously, someone shopping for a secret birthday present for their spouse may inadvertently spoil the surprise if they use a shared iDevice and forget to clear their history after shopping. Of course, browsers like Chrome already support optional history syncing, although it’s not enabled by default.
It’s still early in the beta testing process for OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, so we’ll see how developer feedback shapes Apple’s decision to modify this new shared history feature.