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Watching porn on OS X Safari isn’t as ‘private’ as you think

Published Mar 19th, 2015 6:45PM EDT
Safari OS X

If you ask Apple, switching on “Private Browsing” in OS X Safari should keep everything you do online free from prying eyes. Not only does “Private Browsing” mode prevent websites from tracking your behavior, it also precludes Safari from remembering what pages you’ve visited. In other words, “Private Browsing” should keep your search history completely, well, private.

Or so you thought.

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In a bug originally discovered by MacIssues, it appears that Safari, even in Private browsing mode, is actually logging all the sites you’re visiting and keeping them in a file anyone with access to your computer can retrieve with only a minimal amount work.

As it turns out, Safari, no matter what browsing mode you’re in, saves all website Favicon images in a file located here: ~/Library/Safari/WebpageIcons.db file. This database file can be opened by any SQLite browser, including the one built into OS X’s Terminal app.

Once opened, users are presented with a full list of all the URLs they’ve visited, including those that were opened up while browsing in Private mode. While users can certainly trash the WebpageIcons.db file if they wish to get rid of any trace of their browsing history, Chrome for OS X might remain a safer bet in the interim.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.