Apple Announces New Anti-Tracking Feature for Safari

Apple on Monday announced new technology for its Safari browser called Intelligent Tracking Prevention that reduces cross-site tracking by further limiting cookies and other website data. This decreases the amount of tracking advertisements that advertisers can use on Safari’s desktop and mobile browsers, currently the fourth most popular desktop browser and most popular mobile browser.

The feature aims to protect users from websites that follow their movements around the internet. Using a machine learning model, WebKit is able to classify which top privately controlled domains have the ability to track the user cross-site, based on the collected statistics. In a blog post, John Wilander, a WebKit security engineer, said the technology relies on several criteria.

“Out of the various statistics collected, three vectors turned out to have strong signal for classification based on current tracking practices: sub resource under number of unique domains, sub frame under number of unique domains, and number of unique domains redirected to. All data collection and classification happens on-device,” Wilander said.

Apple argues that the success of the internet as a platform relies on users trusting browser companies. In the blog post, Apple laid out solutions for web developers to implement this in their websites before the updated Safari is rolled out later this year.

Privacy advocates responded with enthusiasm to this change citing it as a necessary step to ensure users’ privacy. Some groups said that Apple’s browser competitors should be devoting resources like Apple did to improving users privacy in the browser.

Many mobile advertising companies have not yet released statements on this change to Safari, but a source from inside one of the largest mobile advertising networks said that while there is some concern over this new system, their firm’s engineers feel relatively confident that this will not affect their platform in a significant way.

CC BY-SA license image by iphonedigital.

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