October 18, 2017

Apple vs. Google (Again)

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Published: 18 October 2017 

Apple has been at the forefront of technology for some time now. Whether it is the latest tech devices or software, they’re constantly striving to be the best they can for customers. Privacy for their users has also been important to Apple. The recent launch of iOS 11 and Safari proves that after offering Intelligence Tracking Protection. But not all are thrilled with the roll-out of this new feature, as it may have an effect on many digital marketing strategies.

What is Intelligence Tracking Protection?

Intelligence Tracking Protection (ITP) aims to protect users’ privacy by manipulating ways Safari deals with first-party cookies. It is part of Webkit, an open-source browser that works with Apple’s Safari web browser. The new feature came out with the latest iOS 11 and Safari 11 update.

How does ITP work?

In the past Safari already blocked third-party cookies. The new update with ITP now looks at first-party cookies and looks at the information to block certain tracking. Not all first-party cookies are considered “bad” though. They are usually quite safe and are needed for a smooth experience. They keep information sessions open that keep you logged in, so you do not need to repeat a log-in all the time. They also allow you to add and keep things in shopping baskets and maintain website settings you have previously chosen, such as the language used. First-party cookies will also keep the information you have input on white paper download forms, like name, address, and e-mail.

Some first-party cookies have become crafty and will track users in the same way third-party cookies do. It is this activity that ITP works to block. Some of the blocks might affect marketing performance, since paid media platforms like AdWords may not be able to track user behaviour and be able to target ads. It could also have an effect on Google Analytics, prevent accurate information for conversions.


What is Google doing about ITP?

The search engine and advertising giants were not about to let that stop them. They have developed a new analytics cookie that can obtain campaign and conversion data from Safari in a way that still complies with ITP. This change is applicable to all browsers but just adapted in a slightly different way for Safari and iOS. If advertisers have their Google Analytics and AdWords accounts linked, then they don’t need to do anything differently; reporting will occur as normal. If the accounts are not linked, or the cookie is disabled, then AdWords will model the conversion based off of the last visit 24 hours previously using Safari.

The _gac cookie is essentially expanded to include AdWords in Google Analytics. With the change for ITP purposes, it will see the cookie on the advertiser’s domain, making it a first-party cookie rather than a third-party one and be in compliance with ITP. This will seamless see ad data and conversion reporting as normal.

The advertiser can opt out of the change at any time through Google Analytics, but otherwise, it is important to ensure that accounts are linked, or the cookie is enabled if you want to continue seeing accurate real-time data.

Ben Maden

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