Apple is cracking down on tracking websites that are breaking Safari’s privacy rules. Now, Apple will treat those websites like malware to protect customers’ privacy.
WebKit Tracking Prevention Policy
On Aug. 14, Apple released a new policy that takes a tougher stance on websites that track and share customers’ browsing histories. Even though Safari had started this crackdown on cross-tracking sites two years ago, websites still have a way of tracking browsing histories using fingerprinting and super cookies.
In the new policy, Apple will treat these websites basically like malware since they infringe on users’ privacy. Now, if a website tries to bypass Safari’s tracking prevention methods, it will impose punishments on the website without prior notice by adding additional restrictions.
There are no exceptions in this crackdown, and even websites that do not intend to actually track user browser history might also be affected. Even if some websites have valid uses for techniques that are also used for tracking, they might still be affected because WebKit is unable to distinguish valid from invalid uses of the technique and does not know how the involved parties will actually do with the data they collect.
That said, Apple does not intend to affect these kinds of valid practices and is very well aware that this might be an unintended impact of the new policy, something that the company intends to minimize.
Tracking is the means by which websites collect user data regarding a user’s activities, preferences, or identity. Even if the data collected does not lead the user to be personally identifiable, it is still considered tracking, and often the data collected is given to third parties such as advertisers. For instance, if a user looked at a product online and soon sees ads for it in many websites soon after, then they have been a victim of cross-tracking.
There are several known ways that websites track users’ browsing histories, but there might also be other ways that are currently unknown to many. As for Apple’s current Tracking Prevention, it will focus mostly on preventing both known and unknown tracking techniques.
“We want to see a healthy web ecosystem, with privacy by design,” Apple notes.