How to Control iPhone Safari Settings and Security

Privacy and Security Settings for iPhone Safari
image credit: Astronaut Images/Caiaimages/Getty Images

We all conduct a lot of important personal business on the web these days, which means that taking control of your web browser's settings and security is crucial. That's especially true on a mobile device like the iPhone. 

Safari, the default web browser that comes with the iPhone, gives you the power to change its settings and take control of its security. Read on to learn how to use these features.

Change the Default iPhone Browser Search Engine

Searching for content in Safari is simple: just tap the menu bar at the top of the browser and enter your search terms. By default, all iOS devices—the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch—use Google for your searches, but you can change that by following these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings app to open it
  2. Tap Safari 
  3. Tap Search Engine
  4. On this screen, tap the search engine you want to use as your default. Your options are Google, Yahoo, Bing, and DuckDuckGo. Your setting is automatically saved, so you can start searching using your new default search engine right away.

You can also use Safari to search for content on a web page. Read that article to learn more about how to use that feature.

Use AutoFill to Fill Out Forms Faster

Just like with a desktop browser, Safari can automatically fill in online forms for you. It grabs information about you from your address book and saves time filling out the same forms over and over.

To use this feature, do the following:

  1. Tap on the Settings app
  2. Tap Safari 
  3. Tap AutoFill
  4. Move the Use Contact Info slider to On
  5. Your information should appear in the My Info field. If it doesn't, tap that and browse your address book to find yourself 
  6. If you want to save the username and password you use to log into various websites, slide the Names & Passwords slider to On.

    View Saved Passwords in Safari

    Saving all of your usernames and password in Safari is great—when you come to a site you need to log into, your iPhone knows just what to do you and you don't have to remember anything. Because this sort of data is very sensitive, the iPhone protects it. But, if you need to look up a username or password you can do it by following these steps:

    1. Tap Settings
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Tap Passwords
    4. You'll be asked to authorize access to this information via Touch ID. Put your finger on the Home button to scan your fingerprint
    5. A list of all websites that you've got a saved username and password for appears. Search or browse and then tap the one you want to see all of your login info for. 

    Control How Links Open

    You can choose where new links open by default—either in a new window that immediately goes to the front or in the background by following these steps:

    1. Tap Settings 
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Tap Open Links
    4. Choose In New Tab if you want the links you tap to open in a new window in Safari and to have that window immediately come to the front
    5. Choose In Background if you want that new window to go to the background and leave the page you're currently looking at on top.

    Cover Your Online Tracks with Private Browsing

    Browsing the web leaves a lot of digital footprints behind.

    From your browsing history to cookies and more, you may not want to leave those tracks behind you. If so, you should use Safari's Private Browsing feature. It prevents Safari from saving any information about your web browsing—history, cookies, other files—while it's turned on. 

    To learn more about Private Browsing, including how to use it and what it doesn't hide, read Using Private Browsing on iPhone.

    Clear Your Browser History and Cookies

    If you don't want to use Private Browsing, but still want to delete your browsing history or cookies, do the following:

    1. Tap Settings
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Tap Clear History and Website Data
    1. A menu pops up from the bottom of the screen. In it, tap Clear History and Data.

    Want to know more about what cookies are and what they're used for? Check out Web Browser Cookies: Just The Facts.

    Prevent Advertisers From Tracking You

    One of the things that cookies do is allow advertisers to track you across the web. This lets them build a profile of your interests and behavior so they can better target ads to you. This is good for them, but you may not want them to have this information. If not, you should enable Do Not Track. This is a voluntary feature, so not all websites will respect it, but some is better than none.

    1. Tap Settings
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Move the Do Not Track slider to on/green.

    Get Warnings About Potentially Malicious Websites

    Setting up fake websites that look like ones you normally use is a common method of stealing data from users and using it for things like identity theft. Avoiding those sites is a topic for its own article, but Safari does have a feature to help. Here's how you enable it:

    1. Tap Settings
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Move the Fraudulent Website Warning slider to on/green. 

    Block Websites, Ads, Cookies, and Pop Ups Using Safari

    You can speed up your browsing, maintain your privacy, and avoid ads and certain sites by blocking them. To block cookies:

    1. Tap Settings
    2. Tap Safari
    3. Tap Block Cookies
    4. Choose to Always Block, Allow from Current Website Only, Allow from Websites I Visit, or Always Allow.

    You can also block pop up ads from the Safari settings screen. Just move the Block Pop-ups slider to on/green.

    To learn more about blocking content and sites on the iPhone, check out:

    Overall iPhone Security and Privacy Settings

    While this article has focused specifically on privacy and security settings for the Safari web browser, the iPhone has a bunch of other security and privacy settings that can be used with other apps and features. To learn how to use those settings and for other security tips, read: