Seeing ads is one of the most frustrating experiences on the internet, but an essential and inescapable facet of the online experience. Apple doesn't want to block ads entirely since it knows that, although they're annoying, ads are a valuable and significant part of the overall internet ecosystem.
However, Apple does want to improve ads when it comes to privacy. Typically, when a person Googles a particular item, chances are they'll see ads for it in different parts of the web, following them like pesky cockroaches.
How Apple Wants To Change Ad Tracking
It's a creepy experience, and thankfully, Apple has announced in a blog post that it's working on a Safari feature that makes the ads one sees while browsing truly private. This new system, called "Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution," is designed to let marketers track which ads are successful without tracking the rest of the user's online activities.
Traditionally, ad click attribution works by using cookies and "tracking pixels," as Gizmodo explains. Say a person searches for a certain item on a search engine, clicks on an ad, visits the merchant's online store, then buys the item. The merchant's site will send tracking pixels back to the search engine every step of the way, which allows it to know the user's entire online activity from searching for that item to buying it. This is how most sites generate automatic databases about individual customers, including their interests, age, habits, and sometimes, how much money they make.
No Personal Data
What Apple wants is to stop such information from being shared between sites. In its proposed system, ad clicks would be stored on the site hosting the ad. Advertisers would be able to match conversions, or the number of people who ended up buying something, with a randomized 24 to 48-hour delay. This might sound mumbo-jumbo to those not familiar with online advertising lingo, but the point is, with this system, advertisers wouldn't be able to create individual profiles but still see whether a campaign is effective or where problems occur in the checkout process.
This system, for example, might say that sometime in the last 24 to 48 hours, a person who clicked on this particular ad that showed up on Google ended up putting something on their cart from the advertised site. This shows that an ad campaign was effective, but doesn't provide more details than it should, such as personal user information.
Advertisers love data, which is why they will likely not be so enamoured with Apple's new ad tracking solution. Though they'd still be able to gauge whether an ad is successful, it prevents them from tracking a person's online habits in real time.
Right now, Apple is making the feature available in a preview release. The company also wants to take things further by proposing this method as a web standard through the W3C Web Platform Incubator Community Group.