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Image credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Apple is trying to make web ads truly private

It's proposing an ad standard that avoids tracking individual users.
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AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Apple's privacy push is extending to an area where you might not expect it: web ad tracking. The company's John Wilander has outlined a new system, Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution, that would help marketers track the success of ads without tracking individual users. Host sites would store generic ad clicks, while the advertisers' sites would match the number of conversions (people who went on to make transactions) with a 24- to 48-hour delay to prevent profiling. Your browser would send ad click attribution data for those matches, but only in a special, optional private browsing session that prevents cross-site tracking.

The feature will be on by default in Safari in a release later in 2019, and is available in a preview release now. Apple is hoping to make it a true web standard and has submitted a proposal through the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Platform Incubator Community Group.

Advertisers might not be happy with the technology. Although it still lets them see how ads translate to more business, it would prevent them from tracking habits in real time. They'd have a harder time determining just when and where to run ads. Apple is betting that this is an acceptable trade-off, though. The added privacy might prevent people from resorting to more drastic measures to protect their privacy, like disabling cookies and using ad blockers.

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