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Safari in iOS 17 has secret private browsing feature to better hide searches

iOS 17 has been out for a week now, but not even the keenest-eyed observers spotted this new Safari web browser feature.

An Apple executive, speaking during the Google antitrust trial in the United States last week, revealed a new iOS 17 feature that allows users to choose a default search engine when in Private Browsing Mode.

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The news comes from a Bloomberg report quoting Apple executive John Giannandrea, once of Google, who revealed a “second setting, so you could choose between two different” engines.

While you’ve always been able to set a search provider in Safari, the tweak enables iOS 17 users to set a different one when in Private Browsing mode.

Users can head, to Settings > Safari and select Private Search Engine to scan options. The existing setting adheres to your default search engine, but you can specify Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia.

The feature might be handy if you’re perhaps seeking an extra layer of privacy within your private browsing.

Apple hasn’t acknowledged why it added the feature, but there are obvious potential reasons. For example, you may feel more comfortable using DuckDuckGo when in private mode, but want the power of Google for your main searches.

Private Browsing Mode in Safari in iOS 17 had already been boosted significantly because tabs have been placed behind a Face ID shield.

Apple also has the long-standing Private Relay feature, which is part of an iCloud+ subscription. It ensures that no third parties can see both your location and the sites you’re visiting. That prevents advertisers and others from building a picture of your location and browsing history.

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