Apple Slamming the Lid Down on the Cookie Jar

For consumers who use Apple’s Safari browser, expect to see a lot fewer ads this fall when the new version is released. According to George Slefo in AdAge, “Apple will purge all their [cookie] data after 24 hours. Previously, marketers and ad-tech companies could access cookies’ data for 30 days.”

“[This] will likely result in consumers seeing fewer ads for stuff they’ve already purchased (yippie), but it’s also likely to cause havoc for marketers trying to determine the results of their mobile advertising ads,” Slefo continues.

In response, six major advertising trade groups sent Apple a strongly worded letter saying the cookies actually benefit the consumer, and deleting them will ultimately hurt the user experience by keeping brands from showing ads relevant ads.

“We strongly encourage Apple to rethink its plan to impose its own cookie standards and risk disrupting the valuable digital advertising ecosystem that funds much of today’s digital content and services,” the letter reads.

“Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love. Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful,” it continues.

Not so fast, according to a statement by Apple on the cookie ban, known formally as Intelligent Tracking Prevention or ITP. Apple is not blocking cookies on sites people actually visit but wants to end the third-party collection of data that allows ad tracking companies to basically recreate anyone’s browsing history – and target ads accordingly.

“This information is collected without permission and is used for ad re-targeting, which is how ads follow people around the Internet. The new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature detects and eliminates cookies and other data used for this cross-site tracking, which means it helps keep a person’s browsing private,” Apple’s statement explains.

At issue here is not just consumer privacy pitted against advertisers’ right to advertise. As Slefo explains, it raises another larger issue: “Why is the ad industry still relying on cookies, which do their job far from perfectly and are unpopular with some consumers to boot?”

Is this how the ad cookie finally crumbles? With Safari getting at least 50% of the mobile browser traffic, this will clearly have industry-wide implications.  At any rate, tech companies are now at least responding to consumer dislike of retargeting ads, and that’s a good start.