Apple to launch new privacy feature for ad tracking in browser

“Apple Inc said on Wednesday its browser engine Webkit will launch a new technology to track advertising clicks and whether they lead to a product purchase while preserving the privacy of users,” Reuters reports.

“Users will not be uniquely identified across websites they visit in order to track ad clicks, and the technology will only let those websites be involved in measuring the clicks, not any ‘opaque’ third parties, according to a blog post on Webkit’s website,” Reuters reports. “At a launch event in March, Apple made privacy the core focus as it introduced Apple News+, a news app that it said would not report what users were reading to advertisers, as well as a credit card with Goldman Sachs that it said would not sell user data to marketers.”

Reuters reports, “The new web technology from Webkit avoids placing any trust in any of the parties, whether it be the network or the merchant, and limits communication between them to prevent sharing of data that could track an individual user.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: John Wilander writes via the WebKit Blog:

Today we are presenting a new technology to allow attribution of ad clicks on the web while preserving user privacy. We used the following principles as we designed this technology:

• Users should not be uniquely identified across websites for the purposes of ad click attribution. This means the combined data of an ad click and a conversion should not be attributable to a single user at web scale. To achieve this, our design has the following properties:
– Up to 64 ad campaigns can be measured in parallel per website where ads are placed and advertiser. This low number means ad campaign IDs cannot be turned into user identifiers.
– Up to 64 conversion events can be distinguished on the advertiser’s own website. This means conversion IDs are also restricted from being turned into user identifiers.

• Only websites that users visit should be involved in measuring ad clicks and conversions.
This means that opaque third-parties should not receive ad click attribution reports and we enforce it by requiring that the ad link is part of a first-party webpage and by only reporting on which first-party website a conversion happened.

• The browser should act on behalf of the user and do its best to preserve privacy while reporting on ad click attribution. We achieve this by:
– Sending attribution reports in a dedicated Private Browsing Mode even though the user is in regular browsing mode.
– Disallowing data like cookies for reporting purposes.
– Delaying reports randomly between 24 and 48 hours.
– Not supporting Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution at all when the user is in Private Browsing Mode.

• The browser vendor should not learn about the user’s ad clicks or conversions.
For this reason, we designed the feature to do all of its work on-device. The browser vendor does not see any of the ad click attribution data.

Critically, our solution avoids placing trust in any of the parties involved — the ad network, the merchant, or any other intermediaries — and dramatically limits the entropy of data passed between them to prevent communication of a tracking identifier.

Read more here.


  1. Sounds good but, whether or not it will work as promised, well, “we’ll see,” or “time will tell,” or “we’ll have to wait,” or “god only knows.”

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