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The Effects of Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention

Alex Hern, reporting for The Guardian on the results of Safari's new Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), launched last year with iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra (via John Gruber):

Internet advertising firms are losing hundreds of millions of dollars following the introduction of a new privacy feature from Apple that prevents users from being tracked around the web.

Advertising technology firm Criteo, one of the largest in the industry, says that the Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) feature for Safari, which holds 15% of the global browser market, is likely to cut its 2018 revenue by more than a fifth compared to projections made before ITP was announced.

Here's how Apple officially describes ITP in Safari 11's documentation:

Added Intelligent Tracking Prevention, which updates the default cookie and website data policy to isolate and remove cookies and website data for sites with the ability to track users across-site.

This isn't the first time ad companies have complained about Apple's protection of user privacy in Safari and stance against invasive cross-site tracking. In September, six trade groups claimed Apple was "sabotaging" the industry with a "unilateral and heavy-handed approach", to which Apple responded:

“Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history,” according to an Apple spokesperson. “This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet.”

"Unilateral" is exactly right: Apple should only care for the interests of users buying their devices, not those of third-party ad companies creepily tracking them around the web.

Cross-site tracking and ad targeting has gotten so out of hand over the past couple of years, it's become a regular comment from friends who don't follow tech news – "Why am I seeing an ad for something I was checking out two days ago on another site?" is a question I hear frequently despite the existence of third-party ad blockers and Apple's own ITP in Safari. Personally, I think the more Apple can advance ITP, the better it is for the privacy of all iOS users.