The best apps & extensions that protect your privacy in Safari

Privacy newsTips & tricks
5 mins

This article was originally published on December 24, 2015.

(A few months back ExpressVPN wrote a blog post on the top 3 browser extensions for protecting your privacy. While we got great feedback on that post, we realized that we neglected a key demographic: loyal Safari users. Sorry, guys! This post is for you.)

You’re being followed. And not just by your followers on Twitter and Instagram. Pop-up ads and third-party scripts are tracking what you do online. Even worse, these ads and scripts can compromise your cybersecurity and slow down your browsing speeds.

Want to protect your Internet privacy and security while you surf on Safari? Arm yourself with these apps today.

Apple’s New Arsenal of Content Blockers

When Apple released iOS 9, they included an overlooked-but-amazing new feature that enables content-blocking extensions.

But these aren’t your traditional ad blockers. Apple’s content blockers do much more than block ads. They also block cookies, pop-ups, autoplay videos, scripts, and any other potentially privacy-invading (and annoying) content.

While our blog post about the best Chrome extensions for protecting your privacy broke the apps down into different categories, Safari’s content blockers combine various features to work as anti-tracking and site-securing extensions, as well as traditional ad blockers.

Here are our picks for the best free Privacy Apps for iOS and Mac.

Jump to…

Top Content-Blocking Apps for Safari on iOS
Top Content-Blocking Extensions for Safari on Mac

Top Content-Blocking Apps for Safari on iOS

Check out our favorite content blockers for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod!

Our Top iOS Pick: 1Blocker

logo for 1blocker, our top pick

What’s better than an ad blocker that blocks almost every ad or third-party script? An ad blocker that actually improves your battery life. This is exactly what 1Blocker does.

While UBlock Origin was our #1 pick for best ad blocker for Chrome, it’s not available for Safari. Fortunately, the developers of 1Blocker may have created something even better than UBlock Origin.

With more than 8,000 pre-installed blockers, 1Blocker targets ads and scripts to maximum effect—making it possible for sites to load faster and downloads to upload easier. In fact, 1Blocker’s developers claim the app can decrease load times and data downloads by over 50 percent!

1blocker in action

1Blocker is easy to use and offers loads of great customizable features. You can block cookies and whitelist (un-ad-block) specific sites. You can even hide certain page elements and block custom fonts to help improve browsing speeds.

1blocker's customization options

We’re not afraid to declare this app is the only ad blocker you’ll ever need on your iPhone.

(Note: 1Blocker is available for free, but your customizable choices are limited. To unlock the rest of the custom options, you can buy the pro version for $2.99 USD. We know, we know: this list is supposed to be about FREE apps. But 1Blocker is so good we had to name it as our top pick.)

Runner-up: Refine

If you’re not satisfied with 1Blocker’s free version and don’t feel like forking out the cash for the full suite, Refine is the perfect alternative.

logo for refine ios app

Formerly known as Safari Blocker, Refine is 100-percent free and comes with two built-in blockers: Classic Privacy and Classic Adblocking. As the names suggest, Classic Privacy helps protect your personal info, while Classic Adblocking blocks unwanted pop-ups and scripts.

screenshot of interface for refine app

Classic Privacy is switched off by default, but you can toggle it to allow both blockers to work simultaneously.

screenshot of refine app options

Like 1Blocker, Refine also lets you whitelist specific sites and has a number of customizable options. And while you’ll see faster load times with Refine installed, 1Blocker is still the best for improving your Internet browsing speeds

How to Enable Content Blockers for Safari on iOS

Please remember that in order to use content blockers on iOS, you first have to enable them.

Once you’ve downloaded a content blocker from the App Store, go to your device’s Settings menu. Under Safari, tap on Content Blockers, and toggle the switch to allow the app (or apps) you’ve installed.

picture of children in cardboard box on  make ­believe safari
Look out! Apple’s new ad blockers are also available on your Mac!

Top Content-Blocking Extensions for Safari on Mac

Mac’s Safari 9.0 is also beginning to see its fair share of ad-blocking extensions. Like the iOS apps, these work by blocking both pop-ups and scripts. They also help improve load times. Here are our top picks for Safari content-blockers for Mac.

Our Top Mac Pick: Adamant

Adamant helps protect your privacy by blocking banner ads, popovers, tracking scripts, and other pesky web elements that follow you around online. It also helps boost load times.

logo for adamant

Below we’ve posted screenshots of a webpage in Safari 1) with Adamant disabled and b) with Adamant enabled.

Look At This Webpage with Adamant Disabled

Notice the ads on the side of the screen, and the “Around the Web” ad links, the “From Our Partners” links, and the enormous banner above the footer.

screenshot of webpage viewed with no adblockers on

Look At This Webpage with Adamant Enabled

Now look at the same webpage in Safari when Adamant is active. See the difference? All the ads are gone, there are far fewer distractions, and the page is significantly shorter and more pleasant to look at.

screenshot of webpage viewed with adamant content-blocking extension enabled
The only thing Adamant is lacking is in the way of customizable features. There’s no option to whitelist sites or alter your settings. But in a way that could actually be a selling point, as Adamant is the perfect plug-and-play ad blocker.

Because this extension hits all our sweet spots—it’s easy to use, and it protects your browser from unwanted ads and invisible scripts—it earns our coveted Top Pick.

While Adamant is free on Mac, Adamant for iOS is available for $1.99 USD.

Runner-Up: Wipr

The little-known gem Wipr works by blocking both ads and trackers.

logo for wipr

Like Adamant, Wipr updates automatically, so you’ll never need to worry about using the latest version.

While it’s a powerful ad blocker in its own right, testing demonstrates that Adamant is slightly more efficient.

Wipr is available on both OS X and iOS. While the Mac version is free, Wipr for iOS is available for $0.99 USD.

How to Enable Content Blockers for Safari on Mac OS

After you’ve installed the content-blocking extensions, you can toggle them on and off in the Safari Preferences menu. To access this, click on Safari in the file menu, then click Preferences

screenshot for accessing safari's preferences

Under the Extensions tab, you will see all the extensions you have installed in Safari. Check or uncheck the box to enable your content blockers.

screenshot of safari extensions in preferences panel

There you have it. Arm yourself with these free content blockers and take back your Internet privacy in Safari today!


Featured image:  Alejandro Escamilla / Unsplash
Safari image: Luis Louro / Dollar Photo Club