Apple Issues Statement On Safari Checking URLs Against Tencent Safe Browsing

There has been a lot of concern recently about the news that Apple uses Chinese firm Tencent as one of its Safe Browsing partners for Safari. Now Apple has released a statement explaining the situation.

Safe Browsing is a feature within Safari that cross-references URLs against a blacklist in an attempt to help protect users from malicious sites. Tencent is one company that keeps such a blacklist and Apple sends URLs there to confirm their legitimacy, at least, that was the report we recently heard.

But according to Apple, that isn’t actually true. Tencent is only used for those devices that have their region code set to China, says Apple. Devices from other countries don’t, so their data doesn’t go to Tencent.

Apple protects user privacy and safeguards your data with Safari Fraudulent Website Warning, a security feature that flags websites known to be malicious in nature. 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.

To accomplish this task, Safari receives a list of websites known to be malicious from Google, and for devices with their region code set to mainland China, it receives a list from Tencent. The actual URL of a website you visit is never shared with a safe browsing provider and the feature can be turned off.

If that is indeed accurate, and we have little reason to believe Apple isn’t telling the truth, then this is a non-issue. But given the current political climate, any suggestion that worldwide data is being sent to China is a potential concern.

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