Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari

Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari

Joanna Kaufman – 6.16.17

 

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is an annual event where Apple showcases their latest software and development projects. It’s an opportunity for the company to hype upcoming products, as well as announce updates to existing technology.

The 2017 WWDC kicked off on 6/5-6/9. While the Tuesday-Friday agendas mainly consist of sessions with engineers, Monday’s meeting contained the substance us non-technical, non-engineer types are interested in – what’s new!

While it’s easy to be distracted by the announcements of a new iMac Pro, iOS 11, and HomePod, Apple’s answer to the Amazon Echo and Google Home, there were also a few quieter developments to existing systems that will affect advertisers.

One of those developments is “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” for Safari to prevent cross-site tracking. This “uses machine learning to keep trackers, namely ad trackers and third-party data trackers, from following users as they browse from site to site. That browsing information data is routinely used for retargeting, interest and other behavioral ad targeting,” (Ginny Marvin, “WWDC: Safari will block third-party trackers from following users around the web,” Marketing Land). While advertisements themselves would not be blocked, the withholding of cookie data prevents advertisers from accessing users’ previous online browsing information. Without this historical data, advertisers would no longer be able to retarget consumers who have previously expressed interest in their brand.  While this development may improve some users’ experiences (after all, who wants to be bombarded with ads for those shoes you looked at once but can’t afford?), it’s an unfortunate elimination of an effective advertising tool to reach potentially higher-converting consumers.

The second update to Safari that was announced is the ability to block autoplay. This means that audio and video wouldn’t automatically start playing once a webpage loads. This feature would keep those videos paused until you choose to unpause them. I’m taking a “glass half full” stance on this. This could end up being a good thing for advertisers, as well as consumers. While reported video impressions or “views” will inevitably decrease, advertisers can finally get a true sense of how many users are actually, intentionally watching their videos. As it currently stands, video analytics are likely extremely inflated, as a video that autoplays immediately below the fold is being counted as an impression, even if the user doesn’t actually see it.  What good are 10 million reported video impressions, if half of those were unintentional?

As more details emerge regarding these and other changes, we will continue to update you. However, if there’s one thing to learn here, with these new Safari rollouts, it’s clear that Apple is operating under a customer-first model, opting to improve the user experience over the wants of their advertisers.