Updated with more information on the privacy shield icon in Safari 14
Literally five minutes ago I updated to the new version of Safari, version 14. Then I browsed Forbes, hit up Techmeme, checked Twitter briefly, went to Fox News (first time, I think), clicked over to Slashdot, and finally read a story on ZDNet. Oh, and I checked for a picture for this story on Unsplash.
In that five minutes, Safari prevented 90 trackers from profiling me.
Let me repeat that. Five minutes, 90 trackers.
Listen to this story on the TechFirst podcast:
Version 14 of Apple’s Safari browser incorporates a new privacy report. It also blocks all third-party cookies, meaning companies can’t track you across multiple websites anymore. Safari has basically already been doing this for some time — the first version of Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention came out almost three years ago — but now third-party cookie blocking is on by default.
Also new: a default-on privacy report that shows up on any empty browser page you open. Click it and you’ll see something like this:
70% of the sites I visited included trackers. The biggest “culprit” was Google Analytics, followed by comScore, the analytics company. Google was responsible for no less than seven individual tracking attempts:
- Google Analytics
- Google Tag Services
- 2MDN (apparently a Doubleclick domain)
- Google Syndication
- Google Tag Manager (yes, distinct from Google Tag Services)
- Google Ad Services
The site with the most trackers was ZDNet, with 59. The site with the least was Twitter, with just two. Ad networks and adtech providers like Criteo and The Rubicon Project and Pubmatic all show up, as does Facebook, although Facebook was only on three of the websites.
In addition, Safari 14 now features a privacy shield icon in the toolbar that you can click on to review active trackers for the website you are current visiting. MSN.com, for instance, has no fewer than 44 active trackers:
I sometimes consult in the adtech industry, and so know theoretically about some of this activity. But this brings home like nothing else the scale of surveillance capitalism and the privacy cost of an ad-based revenue model for just about every service you can imagine.
Along with third-party cookies, Apple is also essentially deprecating the IDFA, a mobile identifier, although that will take effect later in 2021.
Google is also planning to drop the third-party cookie, but has not yet reveal what it will do with the Google Ad ID, the GAID, its mobile identifer. Nor, of course, what it will do about all of its various tracking, tagging, and measurement technologies.
Essentially, the reality is that marketers and advertisers are going to have to learn to live in a world without deterministic tracking-based measurement: measurement that follows and analyzes everything we do on the web and in apps. The reality is also that publishers — including the largest media companies — will also need to learn to monetize their properties without invasive and resource-hogging trackers.
The Social Dilemma, a new documentary on Netflix, illustrates some of the challenges inherent in these business models very well.
Ultimately, we have a lot of work to do to rebuild how we conceive and architect the internet, and how we render payment for services delivered.