Who can see your Apple Mac’s Safari tabs?

It is hard to imagine using a web browser that does not have tabs and they are an essential feature necessary for using the internet. As you open tabs in Safari on your Apple Mac, do you realise that other people might be able to see them? Yes, it is true and it is an important issue that you need to be aware of.

This is actually a feature that has been designed into Safari by Apple and it not a bug, but it does have privacy implications. The feature, or problem depending on your viewpoint, is that Safari tabs that are open on your Mac are visible and accessible on other Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad.

The advantage of this is that you can start browsing the web on your iPhone or iPad, perhaps when you are out and away from your home or office, then when you return to your Mac, you can open Safari and view the tabs that are open on those mobile devices.

The reverse is possible and you can open tabs in Safari on the Mac and they can be viewed and accessed on the iPhone or iPad. You just tap the tabs button and swipe up the screen to reveal the Mac’s tabs at the bottom.

A potential privacy issue results from this and while you are sitting at your Mac browsing the web, someone else in your home, such as your partner or children, may be using the iPad. They can see the tabs you have open and load the pages.

Of course, this works the other way around and you can sit on the sofa with your iPhone or iPad and see what websites your partner or kids are accessing on the Mac.

If you are the only person in your home that uses the Mac, iPhone and iPad, it isn’t a problem. It is also OK if you and the iPhone or iPad user are signed into different iCloud accounts. It is only when the Mac and iPhone and iPad are signed into the same iCloud account that they can see each other’s activity.

To see what tabs are open elsewhere, open Safari, go to the View menu and select Show All Tabs. Alternatively, press Shift_Command+\.

Open tabs in Safari

The tabs that are open (and therefore visible on your iPhone or iPad) are displayed as thumbnail images. To switch to another tab, just click a thumbnail.

View Safari tab thumbnails

Notice that below the thumbnails is a list of tabs that are open on the iPhone and iPad. These can be clicked to open them. Which is useful for continuing a browsing session on your Mac, or for spying on what your kids are doing on the iPad.

To stop the tabs from being broadcast to your iPhone and iPad, go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences. Open iCloud and clear the tick next to Safari to stop syncing (if it doesn’t sync and you want it to, tick Safari).

iCloud sync settings in OS X Yosemite

There is no right or wrong setting with iCloud syncing of Safari tabs. Some people will find it useful, but others may not. It is up to you. Just be aware of how it works and what the implications are.

 

 

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