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Advertisers criticize Apple for its update blocking tracking

Rhode Island State News.Net - Wednesday 20th September, 2017

CALIFORNIA, U.S. - Yet again, Apple is rolling out a new feature and this time advertisers have fiercely criticized the tech giant’s move.

The latest version of Apple’s operating system, iOS 11, which will be made available this week on mobile and desktop OS, brings with it a new default feature in Apple’s software for the Safari web browser.

The feature dubbed “intelligent tracking prevention” has led to an intense and heated debate in the tech circles as advertisers have said that Apple is trying to “sabotage the economic model for the internet.”

However, Apple defended its feature and said that the technology used by online advertisers has become too pervasive and can be used to effectively recreate someone’s browser history.

The feature, in essence stops certain websites from tracking users around the web and will feature on both mobile and desktop operating systems.

This will, however, limit how advertisers and websites can track you across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad re-targeting. 

Experts explain that with the new feature, those users, who for instance are shopping online for a pair of shoes, will no longer be followed by shoe ads everywhere they go on the internet for the next week.

Furious at the move, six advertising trade groups in the U.S. have penned an open letter slamming the move from Apple.

The trade groups include the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the American Advertising Federation and the Association of National Advertisers and in the letter, they have said that they were “deeply concerned” about the Safari update, calling it “opaque and arbitrary.”

The move, which was first announced in June, was described as a “gut punch” to competitors like Facebook and Google, along with online retailers. 

For years now, online advertising has largely depended on using cookies to track people around the internet.

In the open letter, the trade bodies said, “The infrastructure of the modern internet depends on consistent and generally applicable standards for cookies, so digital companies can innovate to build content, services, and advertising that are personalized for users and remember their visits. Apple’s Safari move breaks those standards and replaces them with an amorphous set of shifting rules that will hurt the user experience and sabotage the economic model for the internet.”

While internet users can choose to block “third party cookies” in their web browser settings (cookies set by a website other than the one a user is currently on), advertisers also use “first-party cookies.”

Experts have pointed out that it is very difficult to surf the internet without accepting these cookies as you often need them to be enabled to log into sites like Facebook, eBay or Twitter.

According to reports, Apple’s solution will harness machine learning to decide which cookies a user actually needs to accept.

It will also be helpful in effectively blocking the rest.

Replying to the letter, Apple said, “Ad tracking technology has become so pervasive that it is possible for ad tracking companies to recreate the majority of a person’s web browsing history. This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the internet.”

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