Apple responds to ad group’s criticism of Safari cookie blocking

Apple introduced a new technology to intelligently block browser cookies in Safari, which brought criticism from a number of advertising organizations. Apple believes in privacy with every product it makes, and the advertising groups want to track everything we do so they can sell ads.

Apple responded to that criticism this afternoon by fully explaining what they are doing for the consumer and standing up for themselves.

“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,” Apple said in a statement provided to The Loop.

“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,” the company said.

Those last two sentences say a lot to me. If, as a user, I interact with an advertisement on the Internet, it will allow tracking for those sites—that’s fair. However, it won’t allow these ad groups to endlessly track everything I do on the Web and show me ads—that’s fair too.

What Apple is doing is good for consumers. We don’t need creepy ad groups tracking everything we do. If you do want that, there are Web browsers that aren’t so intelligent that will allow that to happen. You can also disable the Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature if you wish.

I’ll stick with Safari.



  • James Hughes

    As will I. This whole notion that somehow advertisers are doing me a favour with “targeted advertising” is obviously bullshit. Why would I want an ad showing me somthing I may have looked at on say.. Amazon? Maybe I bought it already, even less reason to show me an advert for it. Especially in 2 or 3 spots. All it does for me is remind me that I forgot to log out of Amazon.

    It’s always been a battle. Wait for it, advertisers will be offering something “amazing” for “free” any day now, to suck people back in.

    • Maybe I bought it already, even less reason to show me an advert for it.

      So annoying. But I bet advertisers have a ready fix: provide them with complete access to spending data.

      Seriously, their systems will get “smarter” but it’ll come with compromises to consumer privacy.

      Perhaps those willing to share spending data could be paid for disclosing that information?

  • DanielSw

    What’s really stupid and annoying about this ad tracking scheme is that I don’t need to keep seeing ads for things I already bought! This is so NON-productive as to create the OPPOSITE of the desired effect with me. OK, so I bought the product, but the bad taste in my mouth from this is me wondering what kind of scumbags behind the scenes would stoop this kind of tactic?

    • TamaraSCampbell

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      • Arthur

        LOL

        • Mo

          Yep.

    • GlennC777

      Indeed. That’s the most laughably inefficient outcome of this type of tracking. Unfortunately it’s bound to get more sophisticated and even if it doesn’t it’s hijacking your attention, whether you want it to or not, in exchange for compensation you have not agreed to and have very little ability to object to.

    • rick gregory

      While I agree… retargeting works at scale. Most people who look at a product page for Product A don’t buy it right off… they might just be researching a product category, they might be comparing prices, etc. They might even be thinking of buying that as a gift for someone else.

      Retargeted ads keep the product in front of that person and, overall, some percentage of those people will come back and buy – the increase in sales compared to not retargeting is pretty easy to demonstrate.

      This isn’t to cheer for retargeting but if you’re a business and can increase your revenue with a good margin… you’re going to probably want to do that. Ask any business person “hey, want to increase your sales 5%?” and they’re likely to say Yes.

      THAT’S the challenge – it’s easy to track the increased sales. It’s not as easy to see if you lose some percentage of the initial visitors because you’ve alienated them, etc.

      • Mo

        “The camel’s nose is in my tent. I trust it won’t come all the way in and shit on my bedroll.”

        • rick gregory

          Sigh. This is why I get tired of trying to write comments and discuss things intelligently.

          • Mo

            How you must suffer.

            Your sole focus upon the business side’s advantages of retargeting (yeah, we get it—it’s great for sales) sounds as though you (a) believe the consumer-privacy issues are unimportant, and (b) don’t believe less-intrusive alternatives can be found.

            “Retargeting works at scale.” For whom? Certainly not most of the people commenting here. Do you genuinely believe you’re championing “the greater good”?

            The advertising industry escalates its aggressive, privileged game, and all you can say is “hey, sales are up!”

          • rick gregory

            That’s almost intelligent aside from the utterly wrong interpretation of what I’m saying. But then it’s always stupid to try to tell people what they mean.

            Here, I’ll try again – so many of the comments here and on similar articles are emotional reactions that completely ignore why companies do this. Beyond that, these reactions are usually hypocritical – they can be summarized as “I hate ads! They’re useless” but most of us are influenced by ads specifically and marketing more generally. To deny that is to deny a basic reality about the media environment and how it influences us.

            “Retargeting works at scale” obviously means it works at scale for the advertiser – I can’t believe you didn’t understand that. IN that context, ‘works’ means that some percentage of the retargeted group goes on to buy and, if you test this (split people who’ve visited a product page into two, retarget one of the groups with an ad) you’ll usually find that the retargeted group sees more sales. It’s EASY to decry this, but if you’re a business it’s very hard to justify selling less because principles. If you’re the employee of a company who uses ads and does retargeting it’s also, again, hypocrisy to cash your paycheck when part of it comes from that.

            Is there a better way? I hope so, because I don’t really like retargeting as a consumer. I’m fine with what Apple’s doing – hell, I use Ghostery to block trackers among other things. The problem is that any new technique will have to perform as well as the current paradigm.

            Of course, here’s where you and others knee-jerk react “Who cares if advertising dies!?!?!” – Well, this site. Most sites you read. I get that it feels good to act sanctimonious but it’s a very real problem with two sides. Yes, people want to protect privacy and not have their web experience polluted with intrusive, crappy ads. Me too. But the very sites that they read have to make money somehow or they cease to exist. The company that figures out how to do both of these things would be a massive success.

          • Mo

            You’re arguing to extremes while insulting me. “Who cares if advertising dies” is a very convenient position to have manufactured, but it has nothing to with anything I’ve said here.

            I understood what “retargeting works at scale” meant before you nerdsplained it for the third time, thanks. I was trying to point out that you only seem interested in painting it as a great solution, regardless of the means by which it gets its results.

            I’m not questioning its efficacy. I’m questioning your priorities, regardless of your equivocation.

          • rick gregory

            No, I’m trying to explain for people who aren’t familiar with this a bit about what this is and why people use it. it’s not to be evil, it’s because it’s a technique that works. Then I went on to note that there could be real implications for mid-size publishers who rely on ad revenue. You know, acknowledge that like almost every issue, there are multiple considerations and ramifications?

            But you just want to be snarky and you continue to try to police what I say and what I mean. Don’t do that, it’s asshole behavior.

          • Scott Warren

            Don’t be a dick. You know what else is good for sales? Charging our credit cards without our permission! But we don’t like that either. See, we don’t CARE what’s good for advertisers. We HATE AD TRACKING and the advertisers are doing it without our permission, and we’re glad Apple has our back. We DON’T CARE if ad tracking dies. It’s not good for us, no matter how many times sanctimonious ad people try to tell us they’re doing us a favor by spying on us so they can give us “relevant” ads. You know what? The world survived just fine for centuries without “targeted” ads. Let’s do it again. We accept the presence of ads –we just don’t accept SPYING ON US. Our newspapers, magazines, and tv programs showed us ads for decades and we looked at ’em without complaint. But they didn’t SPY on us. Stop spying, run your ads, and we’ll all get along.

          • rick gregory

            Again, it must be nice to always see just one side of things and to characterize everyone as having your opinion. Simplistic. Childish. But perhaps nice.

            PS: You’ve had this capability for years via Ghostery etc.

          • this site won’t be affected if cookie ad tracker disappears tomorrow. nor will daringfireball, etc.. they use reasonable spots. that’s why so many people whitelist their sites.

            advertising in general is fine. creepy advertising is not.

          • rick gregory

            It must be odd living in a black and white world.

          • Speednet21

            Rick, those are some pretty reasonable remarks. Too bad you’re making them to people with no interest in thoughtful discussion.

  • GlennC777

    John Gruber’s line on this is perfect: It’s like peeping toms objecting to the invention of window blinds.

    And doing so sanctimoniously.

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  • Hardik Panjwani

    Does closing an ad mean that I have ‘interacted’ with it and and have thus given permission for tracking?

  • anthony

    Yep.

  • Jack Chung

    As will I.This whole notion that somehow advertisers are doing me a favour with “targeted advertising” is obviously bullshit. Why would I want an ad showing me somthing I may have looked at on say.. Amazon? Maybe I bought it already, even less reason to show me an advert for it. Especially in 2 or 3 spots.All it does for me is remind me that I forgot to log out of Amazon.It’s always been a battle.Wait for it, advertisers will be offering something “amazing” for “free” any day now, to suck people back in.

  • Cameron Adams

    John Gruber’s line on this is perfect: It’s like peeping toms objecting to the invention of window blinds.And doing so sanctimoniously.

  • Paul R

    I make much of my living from the Advertising industry, and I’m 100% behind Apple on this. I’m disgusted by advertising and tracking practices. For reasons of personal experience (Ads that are too precisely targeted are creepy) and pragmatism (I think most targeted advertising is actually a waste of money for advertisers, but it makes sense and so is an easy sell) I’m happy to see this disrupted. Maybe the industry can find a model that both works and doesn’t suck. Right now it’s got neither.

  • Shaker98

    Sigh. This is why I get tired of trying to write comments and discuss things intelligently.

  • linepau

    Fair enough but then if it is so evil, why do I have 21 trackers when I go on your website ?