Apple announces major new update to ad tracking on Safari

Apple has announced a major new update coming to Safari later this year.

Privacy-Preserving Ad Click Attribution will allow advertisers to monitor the effectiveness of their digital advertising campaigns without having to compromise user data.

Announced by WebKit engineer John Wilander in a blog post, the new technology moves away from “tracking pixels” that are commonly used by advertisers and websites to track whether someone has clicked on an advertisement and later purchased a product or service.

The traditional method, however, has no limit on data, so consumers can be tracked across many websites for months on end – and advertisers can build up profiles of customers before they make a purchase.

“We believe this is privacy invasive and thus we are obliged to prevent such ad click attribution from happening in Safari and WebKit,” said Wilander in the blog post, promising that Apple will introduce a sensitive alternative.

Built into Safari and running on the device rather than in the cloud, Privacy-Preserving Ad Click Attribution is a compromise that allows advertisers to get the data they need and only that – nothing more on consumers, their behaviors, previous browsing habits, and more.

Apple will only allow links served on first-party pages to store attribution data, and neither the website where the ad appears or the website where a product is purchased should be able to see whether the data has been stored or matched.

Unlike some other ad tracking tools, Apple’s will only allow data to be stored for a limited period of time.

In an update coming later in the year, Safari will use an ephemeral session (like a Private or Incognito Mode) when it makes ad click attribution requests, and the browser won’t use or accept cookies, certificates, or Basic Authentication in ad click attribution requests to further protect user data.

What’s perhaps most interesting is that Apple will offer a way for users to turn off ad click attribution entirely, and no tracking will be permitted inside of Private mode.

Try the new technology now

Apple is recommending that the new technology is considered a web standard to W3C, and is previewing the feature in the feature in Safari Technology Preview 82.

Download now and head to the Develop menu and Experimental Features submenu to turn on the feature.

Are you excited to see Apple push forward in ad-tracking? Do you think this compromise is going to work? Let us know on Twitter @AppleMagazine and check back soon for more.

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