Apple has years of your internet browsing history if you selected “sync browser tabs” in Safari. This internet history does not disappear from their servers when you click “Clear internet history” on Safari – which has led to many users being surprised to receive this data from Apple. This recently was brought to the internet’s attention by Denis Bosnic, who filed a GDPR request for his data from Apple and was shocked to find detailed logs of his internet history showing URL and timestamp of visit. This apparently happens if you consent to sharing browser bookmarks and tabs between Apple devices – though Bosnic noted that there was no explicit notice of this when setting up that feature in Apple Safari.
Additionally, the data stored and provided seems to be different for European Union based requesters versus United States based requesters. Discovering these sources of metadata is arguably one of the side effects of GDPR compliance. That is to say, American Apple users seem to be unable to get these logs from Apple.
Why would anyone want your internet browsing history?
Internet browsing history can be used to create super accurate profiles of you as a consumer. Any company with it could use the data internally or sell it – the way that internet service providers and telecom companies are free to do post the dismantling of FCC internet privacy protections. In the United States, there isn’t much political recourse it seems. However, abroad, the GDPR has forced the hands of some companies.
Whoever runs your DNS will know the names of every site you have visited – and for how long. It doesn’t matter if there was a secure green lock box in your browser window. It definitely doesn’t matter if you were using your browser’s incognito or private browsing mode either. All that does is keep a copy of your internet browsing history from being stored locally. Both Apple and your internet service provider or cell phone service provider still know where you went, and kept those logs too. In fact, in some countries, these logs are mandated to be kept for over a year. What’s worse, many different arms of the government have access to the data – even if you don’t think they should.