Apple WebKit’s Tracking Prevention Is Supposed To Protect Privacy. Could It Have Unintended Consequences?

Kevin Mwanza
Written by Kevin Mwanza
Web
Apple says it will expand the use of tracking prevention tech to stop the use of first-party cookies that stalk users around the web.

Apple has expanded its web tracking tool WebKit to include advertisers that drop cookies to track user browsers around the web to collect targeting data.

It says it considers entities using “harmful practices” associated with cookies to be worse than other bad actors who try to disable privacy and security features on its phones.

The disruption of these offending cookies may come with “unintended impact”, the firm says on the WebKit site.

These include disrupting how funding websites use targeted advertising to collect information, how advertising firms measure the effectiveness of their campaigns on Apple’s Safari browser on iOS and macOS devices and how the “like” buttons work on social media.  

Others include limiting audience measurement, analytics tracking and client authentication.

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“When faced with a tradeoff, we will typically prioritize user benefits over preserving current website practices. We believe that that is the role of a web browser,” WebKit says on the website.

“If a particular tracking technique cannot be completely prevented without undue user harm, WebKit will limit the capability of using the technique.”

The list of techniques that Apple said it considers tracking includes link decoration, device fingerprinting, and tracking that uses storage on a user’s device.

For years, interactive advertisers including Facebook, Google, and other ad-tech firms, have dropped cookies into users’ browsers to track the websites they visit and interact with in order to push targeted ads.