Why Is Apple iCloud Storing Your Deleted Safari History For A Year?

That’s the question being asked after this Forbes report hit the streets. According to Vladimir Katalov who is the CEO of Russian hacking tool creator Elcomsoft, Apple is storing Safari histories in iCloud going back more than a year, even where the user has asked for them to be deleted:

Elcomsoft chief Vladimir Katalov told FORBES the iPhone maker kept a separate iCloud record, titled “tombstone,” in which deleted web visits were stored, ostensibly for syncing across devices. Katalov told me he came across the issue “by accident” when he was looking through the Safari history on his own iPhone. When he took Elcomsoft’s Phone Breaker software to extract data from the linked iCloud account, he found “deleted” records going back a year. (Apple calls them “cleared” in Safari, not “deleted”).

“We have found that they stay in the cloud, probably forever,” Katalov claimed.

Your reporter tried clearing his Safari (version 10.0.2 on Mac OS X) history and then ran the Phone Breaker tool on his iCloud account. It returned nearly 7,000 “deleted” records going back to 27 November 2015. They were accompanied by a visit count as well as the date and time the history item was deleted. There were also Google searches, the full terms of which were visible in the Elcomsoft control panel. Fresh Safari activity that I hadn’t cleared was given the status “actual.”

Well… That’s not cool. And what’s worse is this:

Shortly after publication, FORBES was contacted by Katalov and another source, who claimed that their old records were disappearing. It appears, they said, that Apple is purging. There was no update from Apple, however.

So it seems that Apple is covering its tracks. That too is not cool. What would be cool is if Apple explained this in a complete and robust manner. But given the fact that Apple isn’t exactly known for that, I’m not expecting that to happen. That means that conspiracy theories will continue to circulate the Internet. That doesn’t help Apple to put this to rest, or anyone who uses their products feel like they can use Apple products in confidence. In the meantime, I would take this advice from the article:

In the meantime, it’s possible to turn Safari syncing off to avoid the problem altogether. Apple has a good guide about how to turn iCloud features on and off here.

I did that and you should too. Really. You should do that right now. Seriously.



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