Apple believes there has been a way for advertisers to track how well their ads do without (* gisp *) to destroy the user's privacy.
It sounds like a high order, but according to John Wilander, WebKit Engineer and Architect of Apple's Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), a technology called Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution is added as an experimental feature to Preview 82+ of the Safari browser.
No one doubts that the industry has a problem. Advertising keeps websites and advertisers afloat, but at the expense of any kind of privacy-bashing tracking that follows, profiles and collects as much data on users as it can use cross-site tracking.
Many web users are tired of this, thus the popularity of ad blocking and the increase of ad limiting features in rival web browsers such as Firefox.
But according to Wilander, the problem is not advertising per se, but the feeling that web surveillance has become not only understanding what the users do but who they are .
The combination of third-party web tracking and ad campaign metrics has led many to gather online privacy with a web-free advertising.
Undoubtedly true, but no doubt a road that the industry has taken upon itself. Can privacy and advertising be reconciled?
Safari as gatekeeper
Apple's solution is a compromise ̵
Web Ads and Performance Measurements Do Not Require Website A, where you clicked on an ad to learn that you purchased something on the site B. The only data needed for measurement is that someone who clicked An ad on site A bought on Website B.
Instead of advertisers registering this data in the form of pixel tracking and cookies, a mechanism in Safari's WebKit engine would do that for them instead.
And unlike today's web, no "opaque third parties" should see ad deployment data, only the sites visited by the user who generated click-through.
In order to be counted, links must be in the main frame (not an iFrame), while the ad campaigns IDs will be limited to 64 opportunities to avoid being used as a backdoor by assigning unique strings that can identify users to across websites. Wilander summarizes this:
Today's practice of ad click sharing has no practical limit to the data, allowing full tracking of users using cookies across the website. This is privacy invasive, and so we are committed to preventing such ad clicks from occurring in Safari and WebKit.
Will it work?
Judging by the level of detail of the Wilander blog, privacy preserving ad click attribution is no whim. Significantly, Apple says it plans to propose the concept as a standard for the W3C Web Platform Incubator Community Group (WICG), which, if accepted, will mean that other browser developers will be able to adopt it.
The obvious problem is whether advertisers will accept tighter control even if imposed on them by Safari. Apple's ITP anti-tracking has already annoyed advertisers who accused it of financial "sabotage".
Another obstacle will avoid the pitiful fate that went over the Spor initiative, the industry made great demands for when it was launched in 2012, but that went nowhere.
When privacy protects Ad Click Attribution makes it Safari later this year, this will be one to see.