Safari 11 privacy feature gets advertisers fuming

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Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple is out to “sabotage the economic model of the internet” as it protects users from shady tracking while browsing the internet, according to several organizations representing digital advertisers.

Six different digital ad and marketing trade associations recently signed and sent an open letter to Apple opposing a pending Safari update aimed at protecting how your browsing data is used.

As part of its ongoing crusade for user privacy, Apple frequently updates its Safari browser to block third-party cookies, though some analytics companies and data brokers found ways to penetrate privacy settings, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Safari 11 privacy advances with Intelligent Tracking Protection

Safari 11 closes those holes with Intelligent Tracking Protection, powered by machine learning that roots out third-party cookies.

As users browse the internet, websites use first-party cookies that track browsers. However, many sites share your data with brokers, ad companies and analytics groups. These third parties then put your information into a kind of auction, where companies bid to target users with advertising.

“Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love,” according to the advertisers’ open letter to Apple. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful.”

The EFF’s Andrés Arrieta and Alan Toner wrote in favor of blocking third-party cookies, saying the internet’s business model should not compromise privacy.

“Apple has been a powerful force in user privacy on a mass scale in recent years, as reflected by their support for encryption, the intelligent processing of user data on device rather than in the cloud, and limitation on ad tracking on mobile and desktop,” Arrieta and Toner wrote in an article published on the EFF’s website Wednesday. “Safari’s innovations are not the silver bullet that will stop all tracking, but by stepping up to protect their users’ privacy, Apple has set a challenge for other browser developers.

“When the user’s privacy interests conflict with the business models of the advertising technology complex, is it possible to be neutral?”

The letter critical of Apple was made public on Sept. 14 and was signed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

Apple slams ad trackers

Apple sounded defiant in response to the letter from the ad groups.

“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,” a company statement published in The Guardian stated earlier this week. “This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the internet.”

Safari 11 will be available as a free update in the Mac App Store on Sept. 25.