Apple fires back at advertisers complaining about new privacy features coming to Safari browser

At WWDC 2017, Apple announced a new feature for the Safari web browser called Intelligent Tracking Prevention. With this feature enabled, advertisers will no longer be able to track users across websites.

Representational image

Representational image

Apple introduces the feature by saying that the success of the web is dependent on user trust. Apple believes that advertisers, among others, are invading our privacy and eroding this trust by needlessly, and without permission, tracking our every movement on the web.

With Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), advertisers will no longer be able to target users across sites. One of the most powerful tools of advertising that ITP blocks is cross-site tracking. Without going into technical details, cross-site tracking is what enables an ad to follow you around the web. Say you were looking for hard drives on Amazon, you must have noted how ads for hard drives now start popping up on just about every site you visit.

To some of you, this kind of targeted advertising may seem benign, but this kind of targeting also enables a very powerful level of tracking. An advertiser can follow you around the web (digitally) and build a very accurate profile of who you are and what you do. This is information that you never explicitly consented to handing out.

Another feature that ITP blocks is third-party cookies. These can also be used to track your activities, and ITP deals with them by purging them intelligently based on your usage.

These and other such features mean that while you’ll be able to see advertising on any site you visit — ITP is not an ad-blocker — advertisers cannot track you and create a profile on you.

As far as advertisers are concerned, this is a weapon against targeted advertising, advertisers' biggest cash cow, and they were understandably furious. TechCrunch reports that six advertising trade groups published an open letter decrying Apple’s new policy as “opaque and arbitrary”.

Apple responded to the letter with a statement, which reads as follows:

Apple believes that people have a right to privacy – Safari was the first browser to block third-party cookies by default and Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy.

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. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private. The feature does not block ads or interfere with legitimate tracking on the sites that people actually click on and visit. Cookies for sites that you interact with function as designed, and ads placed by web publishers will appear normally.

Updated Date: Sep 16, 2017 17:02 PM