iOS 17 will stop websites from tracking you — here’s how

iOS 17 logo on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

iOS 17, along with iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma, is adding a new anti-tracking system to the Safari browser to stop users from getting tracked through hyperlinks.

As briefly covered during Apple's WWDC 2023 keynote, URL tracking tags will now be automatically removed when browsing in a private Safari tab, or when using Mail or Messages. These tags automatically get appended to the end of a URL, in a similar way to how a browser cookie works, in order to identify the source of traffic to a particular webpage.

These tags are somewhat benign, allowing websites to serve personalized adverts, or track which sources are having the most success in shepherding users to a website. However, this is inarguably a form of tracking users across the web, something that many people, and Apple itself, aren't keen on. 

Good for users, kinda bad for advertisers

We saw similar anti-tracking systems in previous versions of iPhone, iPad and Mac software, such when Apple introduced its App Tracking Transparency option for apps. Although a Safari-specific feature isn't going to have as big an effect as a system that applies to every iPhone app, it could still have a noticeable effect on user privacy.

As a compromise for advertisers, Apple will offer a more general Private Click Measurement value. This doesn't give away individual data, but still gives some indication of what's leading users to a specific page.

WWDC 2023 brought us more new features to look forward to across Apple's software ecosystem. The best iOS 17 features we've seen so far include a new Journal app and a StandBy mode, while on iPadOS 17 we're getting an overhaul to the Lock Screen and external camera support. macOS Sonoma adds desktop widgets and enhancements to Mac gaming through new partnerships with developers and a new conversion system to help PC titles run on Macs. 

More from Tom's Guide

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.