Update: See our most recent ITP blog post for the latest developments.

In late March 2019, Apple is planning to release its newest version of the Safari browser. That version will contain “Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.1” (ITP 2.1).

What does that mean? Digiday has more details here, but in short, Apple is breaking standard web tracking for Safari users after 7 days. This affects the cookie tracking used by Google Analytics, Adobe, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and basically any website.

Marketing Areas Affected by ITP 2.1

You can expect a larger near-term impact if a significant percentage of your site visitors are using Safari browsers. For example, if 50% of your visitors use Safari and 50% of your conversions happen after 7 days, then you can expect to have 25% of your total site conversions tracked incorrectly. Here are a few places where impacts will show up:

  • Inflated users in your analytics tracking – a Safari user will be tracked as a new user after 7 days
  • Missing conversions – ad platforms like Bing, Facebook, etc. will not track conversions after 7 days
  • Broken marketing attribution – Google Analytics and other platforms will be less accurate
  • Smaller retargeting audiences – audiences past 7 days will be reduced in size
  • Problems for A/B testing and personalization
  • Issues for cookie-based lead capture forms and marketing automation systems

Update: Calculate the impact of Apple’s ITP on your marketing data and goals in our new post.

Why is Apple Doing This?

Apple claims this change is in the name of “privacy,” but some might say it’s more a marketing ploy by Apple and an example of the largest company in the world throwing its weight around.

Google and Facebook do collect too much data and haven’t done enough to disclose it and offer control to people. That said, millions of businesses are growing and contributing to the United States’ 2nd longest economic expansion on record by using the effective, targeted advertising that Google and Facebook provide. By breaking basic analytics and conversion tracking, Apple risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Of course, targeted advertising is not Apple’s baby; they sell phones, a business that is in the midst of a slowdown after over a decade of growth.

Looking at another business line, Apple takes a 30% cut from App Store purchases, which points to another incentive. Perhaps Apple is hoping that they can force more businesses to sell through the App Store if their competitors’ ad platforms are less effective.

Possible Solutions If Apple Continues Its War on Cookies

Various technical work-arounds have been proposed. Each of these work-arounds has its own set of challenges, and they may end up being short-lived depending on how Apple reacts. In the near-term, I recommend putting these work-arounds in front of your developers so they can start thinking about what might make sense for your business.

Others have gone as far as suggesting that websites could block Safari users and instead recommend using Chrome.

Waiting for Google

With tens of millions of websites using Google Analytics, it is important to hear from Google. What do they recommend (both for Google Analytics and for Google Ads tracking)? Facebook, what say you?

We will keep you updated with information from Google, Facebook, and other sources as it becomes available.