Apple denies sending URLs to Tencent for Safe Browsing function Safari

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Apple denies that the iOS version of Safari sent URLs to the Chinese company Tencent for Safari’s Safe Browsing function. According to the company, the feature works without sharing URLs with another company.

If iPhones are set to the China region, the iOS device will communicate with Tencent for Safe Browsing, Apple confirms in a statement to ZDNet, among others. This is necessary, because Google’s servers are inaccessible from China. Apple appears to have added Tencent to Safe Browsing late last year, according to GitHub commits that security researcher Eric Romang found.

Safe Browsing works with a series of partial hashes of unsafe URLs that Safari stores locally, cryptography professor Matthew Green claims. If Safari finds that the portion of the hash matches, it will contact Google or Tencent to get the entire hash. Safari compares it and blocks the URL if it matches. In this way, Google and Tencent cannot build a database of IP addresses with URLs that are visited from that IP address.

If an iOS device contacts you because of a partial hash match, it will send an IP address to the Google or Tencent server. Because many users visit thousands of URLs over the lifetime of a device, and may encounter more often URLs whose partial hash matches the database, it is still possible to retrieve user data with this feature, a 2015 study showed. the French research center Inria.

Apple added Tencent to Safe Browsing last year without notifying users. According to Green, that’s a bad thing, because it involves significant changes to Apple’s privacy infrastructure. Tencent is a major Chinese tech company and has often shared data with the country’s government in the past.

The issue came to the fore this weekend due to recent developments around Apple and China. For example, the iPhone manufacturer removed the app after consultation with Hong Kong authorities, Apple removed the Quartz app from the App Store after reporting about the protests in Hong Kong and Buzzfeed News claimed that Apple gave series makers for its streaming service TV+ instructions. in order not to offend the Chinese government. Apple has many devices assembled in China and earns a portion of its sales there, so the company has an interest in good relations with the country’s government.

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