Apple’s Proposal Promises To Prevent Advertisers From Tracking Ad Click Attributions

Apple's new feature will prevent advertisers from tracking user's online behavior.Apple's new feature will prevent advertisers from tracking user's online behavior. Photo: Adam Jarvis | Creative Commons | CC BY-NC 4.0

Whether you notice or not, the internet is running through ads, and since data is gold for advertisers, they collect data from whoever clicks on the ad to track the performance of their campaigns even if it means jeopardizing the privacy of individual users. But Apple may have found a middle ground, and it will start to implement a new privacy plan for advertisers across the tech giants’ network.

Apple is set to launch a new feature in Safari called Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution, which aims to stop ads tracking the moves you make within the web. They said that this proposed solution would allow advertisers to measure their ad performance on the internet without risking the privacy of users.

In layman’s term, this new feature will still allow advertisers to know whether a conversion came from an ad they are running but they won’t be able to gain access to any identifiable information about whoever made the conversion.

A typical ad process includes being able to set up an ad pixel, an invisible image hidden in the ad, that collects cookies from whoever triggers the pixel for advertisers follow the movement and gain insights from the activities of the said user. This would practically send signals to the search engine, in the case of Google Adwords, or Facebook, in the case of FB ads, what actions were made following the clicking of an advertisement.

The information derived from this can now be used to measure the performance of the clicked ad, telling them not just the number of ad clicks but also the number of people who purchased what they advertised in the ad. These data will also be the basis of retargeting them to encourage to buy the products that they didn’t or to buy more of the products that they did.

Of course, there are different ways that a user can circumvent this and prevent advertisers from collecting identifiable information in the process like installing ad blockers or turning on tracking protection in browsers like Intelligent Tracking Protection by Safari or Content Blocking by Firefox. However, the problem with this is that unilateral ad blocking also affects those well-behaved websites who do not run intrusive advertisements in their platform and preventing them from making money out of ads.

But Apple may find a way to get around this problem, which is win-win for both advertisers and users. According to the tech giant, their privacy preservation feature is built into the browser itself and runs on-device, which means that they will not be gaining access to any ad-related data. Also, the company is pushing the new technology as a standard to the World Wide Web Consortium to encourage other browsers to embrace it.

“Online ads and measurement of their effectiveness do not require Site A, where you clicked an ad, to learn that you purchased something on Site B,” John Wilander explained in the blog post. “The only data needed for measurement is that someone who clicked an ad on Site A made a purchase on Site B.”

In the past similar technologies have been proposed like the Do Not Track feature which gives users the option to demand from advertisers that they don’t want their browsing activities to be tracked, but without any surprise, advertisers refuse to acknowledge user preferences as it hampers their business and the Do Not Track feature did not take off.

However, with the current political climate focused on data privacy and the repetitive pressure from multisectoral institutions for Silicone Valley to do a better job in providing transparency in their data collection processes, this new proposal from Apple may prosper, considering that this proposal will have considerable impact to both Google and Facebook – two of the tech giants riddled with numerous data privacy and transparency scandals in recent history – as both companies relies heavily on ad revenues for their business.

The new privacy-focussed setting is available as an experimental feature in the developer build of Safari Technology Preview 82+. While the feature is probably going to be available for everyone until late this year, many are hoping that Apple will mention and market the product at its 30th annual WWDC keynote on June 3.

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