Security & Privacy

You can prevent others from gaining access to information about websites you visit by turning on Private Browsing. If you do this, Safari stops storing your browsing history, your website passwords, and cookies and other information for websites you visit.

What are cookies?

This stored information can make web browsing more convenient and useful. For example, a gaming website might store information that tells the website who you are, so when you revisit the website, it remembers your scores. However, some websites store tracking cookies and other data so advertisers can show you ads for products that match your interests.

Instead of using Private Browsing, which stops Safari from storing any information for websites, even if it might be useful, Safari can ask websites not to track your browsing.

Ask websites not to track you

When Private Browsing is on, webpages are not added to the history list, the names of downloads are removed from the Downloads window, AutoFill information isn’t saved, and searches are not added to the address and search field’s pop-up menu. Your bookmarks, Reading List, and windows and tabs aren’t stored in iCloud. They can’t be seen by others who share your Mac or iCloud-connected device.

Websites can’t modify information stored on your computer, so services normally available at such sites may work differently until you turn off Private Browsing. Any changes made to cookies are discarded when you turn off Private Browsing.

Plug-ins that support Private Browsing also stop storing cookies and other tracking information.

Turn on Private Browsing

  1. While browsing a webpage using Safari, choose Safari > Private Browsing.
  2. When you see a confirmation message, click OK.A Private button appears in the address and search field to indicate that private browsing is on.To skip the confirmation message, hold down the Option key while you choose Private Browsing.

Private Browsing is always turned off when you open Safari, even if it was on when you last quit Safari.

Turn off Private Browsing

  1. While browsing a webpage using Safari, choose Safari > Private Browsing (so the checkmark disappears), or click the Private button in the address and search field.
  2. Close any Safari windows you used to view private information.If you don’t close the windows, other users can view those pages using the Back and Forward buttons.If you downloaded any items from websites, Private Browsing removes only the names of the downloaded items from the Downloads window. To get rid of the items themselves, delete them from your computer.
  3. If you downloaded any items from websites, Private Browsing only removes the names of the items you downloaded from the Downloads window. To get rid of the items themselves, delete them from your computer.

If you forget to turn on Private Browsing

After you finish browsing, choose Safari > Reset Safari.

Privacy is an important concern when using apps that exchange information across the web. OS X includes security features to ensure your privacy and control the amount of information about you and your Mac that’s exposed over the Internet.

Here are some ways you can protect your privacy:

  • Prevent apps from accessing information about your computer’s location using location services.
  • Choose not to share diagnostic and usage information about your computer.
  • Use the privacy features in Safari to ensure your privacy on the web by preventing sites from storing cookies, blocking pop-up windows, limiting location services, and more.
  • Limit and monitor who your kids can chat and email with.
  • Create a firewall between your Mac and the network, and prevent your Mac from responding to queries from unauthorized users.

For more information, see the topics below.

Control information about your computer’s location

Location services let apps, such as web browsers, gather and use information based on your location.

You can turn off location services completely, or you can select which apps can see information about your location. To manage your location services preferences, use the Privacy pane of Security & Privacy preferences.

Privacy preferences

For more information on location services, see:

About managing Location Services

Choose not to share diagnostic and usage information

Apple would like your help improving the quality and performance of its products and services. OS X can automatically collect diagnostic and usage information from your Mac and send it to Apple for analysis. The information is sent only with your consent and is submitted anonymously to Apple. For more information, see the help topic:

Send diagnostic and usage data to Apple

To choose whether diagnostic and usage data is sent to Apple, use the Privacy pane of Security & Privacy preferences.

Use Safari’s privacy features

Safari provides numerous features to help you control your privacy on the Internet. You can browse privately, so there’s no record of where you’ve browsed and what you’ve downloaded. You can block pop-up windows, stop sites from storing cookies on your Mac, and more. To find out more about privacy protection in Safari, see these topics:

Use parental controls

You can use parental controls to monitor your children’s computer use, control who can contact them using email or chat, and limit their access to websites.

Filter inappropriate Internet content

Monitor children’s computer usage

Set limits on email

Set up a firewall

You can use a firewall to protect your privacy by blocking unwanted network communications with your computer. If the firewall is turned on, you can also use “stealth mode,” which prevents your computer from being discovered by others on the web.

To set up and customize your firewall, use the Firewall pane of Security & Privacy preferences.

Prevent unwanted connections with a firewall

Prevent others from discovering your computer


You can increase the security of all the accounts on your computer by selecting the appropriate settings from the Advanced pane of Security & Privacy preferences.

Log out after…minutes of inactivity Automatically logs out after the computer is idle for the given number of minutes.
Require an administrator password to access locked preferences Prevents users from changing locked system preferences without an administrator’s password.
Automatically update safe downloads list Apple keeps an updated list of malware that may try to compromise the security of your computer. Your computer is set, by default, to automatically update this information with the latest available.
Disable remote control infrared receiver Stop your computer from being able to receive commands from an infrared remote control.To configure your computer to respond to an infrared remote control, click Pair, and then follow the onscreen instructions.

You can use the firewall in OS X to prevent unwanted connections from the Internet or other networks.

Certain shared services can connect through the firewall when they are turned on in Sharing preferences. For additional security, you can prevent connections to these incoming services by turning off the service in Sharing preferences. For more information about sharing, see this help topic:

Share your Mac with others on your network

Turn On Firewall If Firewall is turned off, click Turn On Firewall to turn on firewall protection.To modify firewall settings, click Firewall Options.
Firewall Options The Firewall Options button lets you change firewall settings.
Block all incoming connections To have the firewall prevent incoming connections to nonessential services and apps, select “Block all incoming connections.”Basic Internet services are a set of apps that allow your computer to find services provided by other computers on the network. This setting prevents connections to all other sharing services.
Add (+) To add an app, click Add (+), select the app in the list, and then use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys to set the limits for the app.
Delete (-) To remove an app, select it in the list and then click Remove (-).
Automatically allow signed software to receive incoming connections This setting allows apps and services that are signed by a valid certificate authority to be automatically added to the list of allowed apps, rather than requiring you to authorize them. For example, iTunes is signed by Apple, and so it is automatically allowed to receive incoming connections through the firewall.
Enable Stealth Mode Stealth mode prevents your system from responding to probing requests that can be used to reveal its existence. The system still answers requests from authorized apps, but unauthorized requests such as ICMP (ping), get no response.