Browsers Pro-privacy Enhancements and Their Impact on Marketers

Privacy is becoming a major concern for online users and companies are taking actions to address this concern and improve user’s privacy. Apple is a leader when it comes to pro-privacy enhancements, FireFox and Google Chrome seem to be following their footsteps recently.

What is Apple Safari doing to address privacy concerns:

In 2017 Apple started their ITP project (intelligent tracking prevention), with ITP1.1 they started to be strict with third party cookies (partition them or purge them when some conditions met) which caused big issues to cross-sites trackers like Google and Facebook. Google and other providers came up with a solution to get around that by storing their cookies as first party cookies and use variables in the URL to pass their tracking token to the next website.

ITP1.1 kept developing to become ITP2.0, ITP2.1 then finally ITP2.2. The biggest change that will make a big difference for marketers started with ITP2.1 where Safari started being strict with some first party cookies (keeping them only 7 days from the last visit), ITP2.2 is supposed to remove tracking variables from the URL (URL decoration) and reduce first party cookies lifespan to one day, this will be more difficult to get around for cross-site trackers, even if technologies like GA find a solution to get around that Safari may shut it down quickly if they are not happy with it.

How is ITP2.2 Going to Impact Marketers?

  • New users data in Google Analytics will be impacted with that, if a user comes back to the website after 2 days of the last visit they will be treated as a new user
  • Attributions will be impacted in Google Analytics, if a new user comes from a paid click and 2 days later they come through an organic click the initial medium will be set as organic. This will paralyze the whole attribution model in Google Analytics
  • Google Remarketing Ads will lose its ability to track users for more than one day
  • Disabling URL decoration will cause issues to cross domain tracking in Google Analytics as this feature relays solely on URL decoration to pass the CID to the next domain
  • Disabling URL decoration will cause also big issues to affiliate marketing platforms like Commission Junction where cross site tracking and URL decoration are the foundations of their conversion tracking

Safari's market share is almost 15% worldwide, but not all versions of Safari will have ITP2.2 enabled so the short term impact will not be that significant. I have done some year over year analysis on metrics like new users where I expect to see a spike in new users coming from Safari but I could not notice any difference yet.

I tried my websites on Safari 12.1.1 and the life span of _ga cookie was only 7 days:

This cookie is supposed to have 2 years lifespan (the screen shot below is taken from Google Chrome on a Mac)

So for now only ITP2.1 seems to be live not ITP2.2  (_ga cookie will have one day lifespan when ITP2.2 becomes live)

What About Chrome and FireFox?

FireFox has announced their own version of anti cross site tracking policy, they are supposed to roll it out this summer but it is still not clear how strict it is going to be.

Google Chrome has announced a cookie control plan without a lot of details (I do not see it causing any interruptions to Google Ads or Google Analytics)

I will keep updating this post with any new privacy and cookies policy changes by any major browser.


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