- Six major advertising trade organizations released an open letter yesterday condemning the latest update in Apple’s Safari browser impacting the Safari 11 version because of new functionality that indiscriminately blocks or removes first-party cookies without user choice or control.
- The feature is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” and blocks all third-party cookies — which the current version of Safari also does — as well as setting what the letter described as “haphazard rules over the use of first-party cookies” that could “block their functionality or purge them from users’ browsers without notice or choice.”
- The concern around the new feature from the six groups is it is bad for consumer choice and bad for ad-supported online content. The letters states blocking cookies in this arbitrary manner will drive a wedge between brands and consumers and will make digital advertising more generic, less timely and less useful.
Apple has been trying to address consumer and regulatory concerns around certain practices online and how they impact privacy, like tracking user behavior via cookies or location tracking on mobile, through changes to its operating systems for desktop and mobile. However, a couple of these moves are the focus of pushback from the marketing industry. The company recently reversed course on a plan to require apps to notify users when accessing their location in the background that was due to go into effect for iOS 11. The trade groups may have seen that news as a sign that Apple might be open to reconsidering its new cookie rules. The organizations behind the letter are the 4A's, American Advertising Federation, Association of National Advertisers, Data & Marketing Association, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and Network Advertising Alliance.
People have always had the ability to manually turn off cookies, or delete them if they prefer to not be tracked in this way. The new Apple Safari 11 cookie feature replaces these standards with an amorphous set of shifting rules, according to the letter, a move that hurts the user experience as well as the every economic model of the internet.
The letter points out that the infrastructure of the internet depends on “consistent and generally applicable standards for cookies.” Cookies allow digital companies to track user behavior online, providing valuable data that can be used to innovate, create content, services and advertising that is personalized and more relevant.
The backbone of digital marketing optimization is built on collecting first-party data via cookies — this is one reason marketers have had issues on mobile as cookies aren't part of the mobile ecosystem so brands have had to come up with other ways to gain insight into user behavior. The full value of cookie tracking for companies rests on all website visitors playing from the same set of rules regardless of which browser they use for the visit.