Apple says Tencent isn’t snooping on your browsing habits

was quick to allay user concerns this weekend after someone spotted that it was working with Chinese company to check its users’ website requests for malicious URLs.

The company had to clarify how a feature in the iOS version of Safari called “Fraudulent Website Warning” worked after the Tencent link was revealed.

If you go into the settings app in iOS, select Safari, and then About Safari & Privacy, there’s a section called Fraudulent Website Warning, which reads:

Before visiting a website, Safari may send information calculated from the website address to Google Safe and Tencent Safe to check if the website is fraudulent. These safe browsing providers may also log your IP address.

The Fraudulent Website Warning feature checks websites against a list of known malicious URLs so that iOS 13 can flag any harmful sites that users try to visit.

These lists are provided courtesy of companies known as safe browsing providers. Source code in the GitHub repository for WebKit, which is Apple’s underlying browser engine for Safari, suggest that Tencent has been a safe browsing provider since at least November 2018.

Tencent is a giant Chinese tech company involved in a wide range of activities. With 2018 revenues of Rmb312.7bn (£35.2bn), it’s one of Asia’s biggest businesses. It operates the hugely successful WeChat social messaging and payments app in China, and owns bits of companies including Activision Blizzard, Riot Games, Ubisoft, and Discord, not to mention Snap and Tesla.

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