In a rather funny twist, the Safari web browser is at the center of a fight between Apple and advertisers on the topic of privacy.
The reason for the fight is that Safari has a new feature regarding "intelligent tracking prevention" which basically means that advertisers will no longer be able to track your activity across the whole Internet.
Unsurprisingly, this does not sit well with advertisers who would like to know just about everything you do via those magic cookies your browser stores. Safari was already blocking third-party cookies which are placed on a website by someone else other than the website publisher, and this was already annoying the ad industry. But now, Apple is looking into those first-party cookies. If they're used to track user movements from one site to another, they'll be deleted if you haven't visited said website in more than 30 days.
Advertising is what makes the Internet go round, and ad tracking has become so pervasive that it's close to someone spying your every movement. Even worse, since we're talking about the Internet, and these ad companies know everything about you and your dirty secrets.
Sure, theoretically, all this data is gathered anonymously. Practically, that isn't much of a relief since the data is still collected and, by using that unique number attached to every user, used to tailor the ads you get served.
"Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to re-create 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," Apple said, adding that the company believes people have a right to privacy.
These cookies that are being used by the ad industry have multiple uses. For instance, they help remember your credentials when visiting a site so you don't have to log in every day. The fact that the advertising industry is abusing them isn't anything new, but it's notable that Apple is trying to stand up for users. Safari isn't exactly the most popular browser in the world, but it might just win over a few more users now that it is picking up a fight with the boogeymen.
Apple's efforts to protect privacy
In a world where our lives are spent online, it's important that our secrets remain so. Of course, by the estimates of many experts in the field, a great part of our cyber secrets will land online in the next few years, mostly due to data breaches and other similar occurrences. Our browsing history is one of those things that every one of us keeps dear and considers a secret. There's a joke that's been going around online for many years that has people telling their friends that when they die, they should clear their browser history - it's just that personal.
When a site's cookies track what you do on that site, that's fair game - you're announced that this happens and you get to click "accept" for it, since disagreeing doesn't really have any effect. But when those cookies track you across all your tabs and the dozens of pages you access every day, that becomes a problem; one that Apple seems more than ready to tackle.
Apple isn't the only company taking measures against aggressive ad tracking like this. Other browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, are also pushing back against the industry. In Chrome's case it's even rather ironic since Google's coffers are full of ad-money. Nonetheless, it's happening, and it's only going to benefit users and their desired privacy.