Safari’s Safe Browsing Option Raises Privacy Concerns

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Professor Joel Reidenberg provides his expert opinion to TechNewsWorld on why people using Apple’s new “safe browsing” option for Safari should be concerned about their data privacy.

Apple offers the following explanation in Safari’s settings section: “Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe Browsing and Tencent Safe Browsing to check if the website is fraudulent.”

That should concern consumers, maintained law professor Joel R. Reidenberg, founding academic director of the Center on Law and Information Policy at Fordham University School of Law in New York City.

“Safe browsing should not only mean you’re protected from visiting websites that are dangerous, but that your privacy is safe, too,” he told TechNewsWorld.

“The way this is structured, that’s not going to be the case,” Reidenberg continued. “The fact that browser history information is going to a Chinese company that may or may not be giving access to that data to the Chinese government is something that should raise a series of red flags from a security standpoint in the United States.”

Browser information also could be valuable to intellectual property thieves.

“Someone in an American company might be doing research on an innovative product. That browser history information now goes to Tencent, which gives Tencent information about the innovation in that U.S. company,” Reidenberg explained.

“There’s no reason to believe the Chinese government cares about this information right now, is going to use this mechanism, or doesn’t have other ways to acquire it, but it’s another way they can use to surveil people, if they chose to,” he pointed out.

“There are some pretty vulnerable people in China right now, people not being treated particularly well by the government,” Reidenberg said. “This could be another path by which those people’s private browsing history could become available to the state. I think that deserves a little more thought than I’ve seen from Apple.”

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