What Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention Means to Marketers

October 15, 2019 Ginna Hall

For the last few years, technology companies have been making changes to help protect user privacy on the web. One of these changes was in September 2017, when Apple added Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) to Safari browser versions 11 and above.

This feature blocks third-party trackers from capturing cross-site browsing data for ad targeting purposes. Previously, Safari defaulted to blocking third-party cookies. Intelligent Tracking Prevention built on that by further reducing cross-site tracking.

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is significant to all marketers, especially those in North America because almost half of all mobile browser activity in the U.S. is on Safari. Apple has continued to update this feature and in April 2019, released ITP 2.2 in Safari 12.3, not only blocking third-party cookies but also limiting first-party cookies under some conditions.

What does a feature that limits how visitors can be tracked online mean for marketers?

Reducing Cross-Site Tracking

Intelligent Tracking Prevention is one of a number of different ways that Apple is reducing ad tracking. ITP 2.2 deletes first-party cookies set by web analytics and other martech tools after 24 hours. The standard cookie in Google AdWords, on the other hand, is 30 days, and most bid tools are 90 days.

A blog post by Apple WebKit security engineer John Wilander explains that Intelligent Tracking Prevention builds on Safari’s existing default blocking of third-party cookies and “reduces cross-site tracking by further limiting cookies and other website data.”

This means users only have long-term persistent cookies and website data from the sites they actually interact with and tracking data is removed proactively as they browse the web.

Respecting Privacy and User Preferences

Apple believes that Intelligent Tracking Prevention is a more advanced method for protecting user privacy.

In some respects, Apple ITP 2.2 makes analytics, measurement, retargeting and many other user data-based practices more challenging. Because user identification via a cookie is purged after one day, a tracked user is “forgotten” and considered a new user after this period.

The new restrictions in Safari do make it harder for third parties in general to understand a user’s journey across the internet. However, Safari has always been difficult to track because it reduces the effectiveness of third-party cookies. 

From our perspective, this highlights the importance of cross-device identification as a tool that’s not just important for mobile attribution, but something that’s now essential for any type of digital advertising and measurement.

Our Point of View

ITP’s introduction is just one of many changes the advertising and marketing industry is adjusting to. Recent industry and regulatory events have impacted the measurement methods that advertisers, publishers, and technology companies currently employ to understand consumer behavior across digital media and devices.

These events reflect an industry-wide focus on enhancing consumer privacy and data security in an evolving regulatory landscape that includes Brazil's new Data Protection Law, the California Consumer Privacy Act and the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation.

We are committed to user privacy and respect a user’s right to choose whether or not and how much they are tracked online. One thing is becoming more clear: the use of cookies as a way to identify users on web browsers is becoming less reliable with every passing year.

However, we don’t believe that the changes Apple has rolled out will have a significant impact on our client’s ability to collect data, or on our ability to provide measurement on behalf of our clients.

Martech companies are pursuing a variety of strategies to facilitate marketing measurement. Major industry players with their own stores of first-party data and strong partnerships are better positioned to develop solutions for a world that’s less reliant on cookies.

We will continue to be able to understand consumer behavior and performance on behalf of our clients, and provide the marketing intelligence you need to make the best business decisions.

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