It’s now established that whatever we do online can be traced back to us or our devices to some extent. Almost all websites and services employ some form of trackers to get an idea of your web activity. While you may not be concerned about what kind of data gets collected when browsing for general purposes, you may need to protect your identity, data, or your IP address when dealing with something more serious.
That’s where private browsing comes into play as it allows users to stay anonymous online, avoid website trackers, and protect themselves from malicious websites. Like many web browsers out there, Apple’s native Safari browser also offers a Private Browsing Mode that lets you browse the web without worrying about your activity getting tracked by websites you visit or getting saved on your iPhone.
But what happens to your browsing history? Can you check it after a private browsing session on Safari and can you access all of your tabs from a Private session again? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this post.
How to Enable Private Browsing on an iPhone
Starting a Private Browsing session on iOS 15 is easy. Open the Safari app on your iPhone and tap on the Tabs icon in the bottom right corner.
When the Tab overview screen appears, tap on the ‘x’ Tabs section or Start Page at the bottom.
You will now see Tab Groups pop up from the bottom. Here, select Private.
You will now enter the private browsing mode in Safari. You can start browsing the web privately by tapping on the + icon at the bottom left corner which will open a tab with your default Start Page.
A more easy way of enabling private browsing is by long-pressing the Tabs icon from anywhere inside Safari and then selecting the New Private Tab option from the overflow menu.
Can you check history when browsing privately on iOS?
No. As is the case with any web browser, the purpose of private browsing is not only to protect your identity and activity from malicious websites but to also hide your activity from showing up after you’re done with a private session.
When you check your browsing history by tapping the Bookmark icon at the bottom of the Safari screen, you will only see a list of all the websites that you visited when browsing normally (not when Private Browsing is active).
This way, you won’t be able to see your browsing history when you’re using Safari with the Private Browsing Mode active.
Does Safari remove Private tabs after closing?
Contrary to what you would expect, when you close the app, Safari won’t entirely close your ‘Private’ tabs like you Google Chrome or Brave. When you close the Safari app on your iPhone by swiping it upwards from the Recent Apps screen, all the tabs that were open inside Safari will remain in memory and will reappear when you open Safari in the future.
This applies to both normal and private browsing sessions on Safari. This way, all the tabs that were previously open inside the Private tab group will reappear on your screen when you switch to Private from other tabs.
While this is great to get you back on track with what you may have been browsing in normal (non-private) sessions, things could get pretty embarrassing when you switch to the Private tab group. This can be worrisome for those of you who tend to forget what they were browsing.
Another thing to note here is that, unlike other browsers, closing the Safari app on iOS with the Private mode active doesn’t open the Start Page on the app. Instead, Safari reloads all the tabs that were open previously inside the Private window. This can be pretty annoying for those of you who forget to switch away from Private mode regularly and close the Safari app directly. It’s thus, important that you close your Private tabs and switch to the non-private mode when you’re done browsing the web anonymously.
So, while you cannot check the browsing history when using the Private Browsing Mode on Safari, you can still have access to all the tabs that were open in a session as long as it’s not closed manually.
How to access your Private tabs again after closing Safari
Since all the tabs that were open in a Private tab group on Safari don’t go away when you close Safari, you can access them easily by simply opening the Safari app on your iPhone. This would work if you had force-closed Safari from the Recent Apps screen directly from the Private mode as all the tabs that were open previously will appear again in the same order.
If you had switched away from the private tab group when closing Safari, you can access them all again by following the same steps as when you enabled the Private Browsing Mode.
When you select Private inside the Tab Groups pop-up screen, you should be able to see all the tabs that were opened in your last session. You can then tab on any of the tabs you want to open.
An easier way to access your Private tabs is by long-pressing on the Tabs icon inside Safari and then selecting the Private option from the overflow menu.
If you don’t want (others) to see what tabs were open inside Private mode on Safari, you can check out the post below to disable it inside Safari on your iPhone.
If you wish to enhance your privacy when browsing online, you can also take advantage of Private Relay within Safari by following our dedicated guide below.
That’s all we have on how you can check your private browsing history on an iPhone.