Intelligent Tracking Prevention takes aim at ads that ‘follow you around the internet’, conventionally known as ‘remarketing’ in the industry. In this approach, cookies are used by advertisers to target a specific group of users and serve them ads that are typically tailored to some sort of action they’ve taken online, for example viewing a product page on the advertiser’s website. It’s a very effective technology within the realm of programmatic advertising. Some would argue it’s good for consumers as well, because the advertising they are seeing is more relevant to their interests.

In Apple’s view, these ads are an annoyance, and represent a breach of privacy. Their technology works by identifying cookies that are detected as being used for third party tracking and blocking them after a day. There is some technology that underpins it that avoids legitimate third party cookies that provide useful web features; for example, presumably Google Analytics will be OK because it is quite fundamental for web publishers to improve their websites.

While this has ostensibly been carried out in order to improve things for consumers, cynics might point to the fact that Apple has little presence in the digital advertising market, while Google and Facebook are starting to form something of a duopoly.

The worldwide impact of this move is likely to be minimal - Apple’s web browser, Safari, accounts for a mere 15% of market share globally. However, somewhat more alarming is that Safari accounts for roughly 30% of browser usage in the UK. If all of these users upgrade their operating systems to the latest version, it could potentially shut off 30% of the potential remarking audience for advertisers.

Apple’s previous move of permitting ad blocking on iOS devices back in 2015 also caused controversy, and triggered quite a few efforts by publishers to prevent individuals accessing their site unless ad blockers were disabled. It remains to be seen how the media industry responds to this latest threat.

Tristan Moakes