How to Make Safari’s Private Browsing Feature Actually Private.
As soon as you open your web browser, all your online activity can be tracked (and tracked). The sites you visit, the things you buy on the internet, the services you enter. Private Browsing can help you keep this information to yourself.
Even if you think you don’t care, you can have many reasons to remain incognito. They are not always obvious, for example, they prevent other people from viewing your browsing history and knowing what you are doing on the Internet. You may want to prevent sites like Facebook from using this information to tailor their ads to you. Or don’t want to worry about logging out when using a public computer.
However, don’t assume that once you turn on Private Browsing it will ensure that you won’t be recorded. With Safari’s private browsing feature, you can use Terminal to easily open all the sites you visit.
Let’s see how to do this and how to get rid of this information permanently.
How to activate private browsing in Safari
If you’ve never used Safari’s private browsing feature before, here’s how to enable it.
- Open the Safari browser.
- Select File New Private Window. You will notice that the address bar is darker in the private window.
- Press Command + T to open a new private tab. Any new tab you open in the same window will also use private browsing.
If you want to set Safari’s private browsing as your default, you can do so in preferences.
Go to Settings and select General. On the tab, find Safari that opens with a menu and click on New Private Window.
What Private Browsing does and doesn’t do in Safari
Before getting into the practical side of things, it’s important to understand what private browsing is. As well as exactly how it protects your privacy when using the Safari browser.
What Safari Private Browsing Does
While this feature does not provide complete privacy, private browsing minimizes the digital footprint you leave online.
Some of the positive effects of Safari’s private browsing include:
- Your browsing history cannot be found in the Safari history tab.
- Usernames or passwords that you previously saved in your browser are not automatically filled in.
- It does not store new passwords that you enter on websites while browsing.
- Limits annoying tracking cookies that some websites try to attach to you.
What Private Browsing Doesn’t Hide
Of course, you shouldn’t completely trust Safari with your privacy. Simply because it has certain limitations. Some things that Safari’s private browsing feature doesn’t hide include:
- Bookmarks that you save in a private session are still visible when you browse the Internet with Private Browsing disabled.
- Your device’s IP address.
- If you are using your work computer and have monitoring software installed, it will still see and record your online activity.
- Your ISP may still see what you do on the Internet (and possibly sell that information).
Improve your privacy with Terminal Commands
As we mentioned earlier, when you use Safari’s private browsing, this feature does not save your search history in the history tab.
However, there is a place on your computer where you will find it. This is the Terminal.
- To find a terminal, go to Applications and then to the Utilities folder on your computer.
- After opening Terminal, run this command to see the list of visited sites:
dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host
If you receive an error such as “Failed to retrieve information from cache node”, don’t worry and just skip to the section below to clear your cache. Otherwise, you will get a list of the domains of the websites you visited, like this:
Key: h_name: (website domain) ipv4: 1
However, there is a way to remove this information.
Clean up your tracks
There is a command in Terminal that allows you to permanently erase these saved sites from your computer.
Open Terminal and enter the command:
This will pretty much “clear” all stored information from the Terminal. If you want to make sure these domains are gone, try running the dscacheutil -cachedump -entries Host command again. This time, you will see an empty directory service cache.
Unfortunately, this cannot be automated. This means that it will not prevent the Terminal from saving the domains of the sites you visit in the future. So you will have to do this entire process regularly to keep your records clean.
Private Browsing in Other Browsers
Safari is considered a popular browser for Mac users as it comes pre-installed on your computer. But you can use other alternative browsers as well as Safari or instead.
Fortunately, no matter which browser you choose, it has its own private browsing feature. This will help you learn how to stay incognito in Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or whatever browser you use.
If you want to take it to the next level, we recommend that you also use additional tools and extensions to improve your online privacy.