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Apple: 'We'll treat sites like malware if they break ad tracking rules'


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

August 18, 2019 | 3 min read

Months after updating Safari's anti-tracking feature, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), Apple has detailed a further set of anti-tracking measures designed to stop platforms and adtech players using cookies for cross-site targeting purposes.

Apple: 'We'll treat sites like malware if they break ad tracking rules'

Apple has detailed a further set of anti-tracking measures

The company's WebKit team, which power the browser engine behind Safari, has released a new policy statement detailing the restrictions cookie offenders will face if they try to circumvent Apple's rules.

According to the document, which was first published by Fast Company, Safari ITP workarounds will be treated "with the same seriousness as exploitation of security vulnerabilities,".

This means that if Facebook, Google or third-party adtech vendors try to bypass Apple’s built-in anti-tracking features, their sites will be treated like malware.

Punishment could see the tracking options of a specific advertiser that tries to evade ITP reduced. However, bad behaviour could also result in a reduction in cookie options in the same way for all advertisers.

"If a party attempts to circumvent our tracking prevention methods, we may add additional restrictions without prior notice. These restrictions may apply universally; to algorithmically classified targets; or to specific parties engaging in circumvention," said WebKit.

As well as honing in on cross-site tracking, WebKit has outlined a number of other tracking practices it deems nefarious.

IPT originally blocked the dropping of third-party cookies into Safari browsers used by iPhone and iMac owners in 2017.

Earlier this year Apple extended this to close a loophole which was seeing companies drop a first-party cookie (that mimicked the functionality of the third-party cookie) into Safari.

Originally, it automatically deleted these first-party cookies after one week, then in June it tightened the screw on privacy once more, cutting the first-party cookie’s lifespan from seven days to one day.

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