Early June, Apple announced a new feature coming this fall for Safari ­that has digital marketers scrambling – Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP). ITP uses machine learning to remove third-party cookies from Safari browsers after 24 hours. Your first – and very valid – thought might be, how will this affect my remarketing efforts? Don’t get too worried – the answer is: not much. Here’s why.

Apple isn’t taking away all of our cookies, to the relief of marketers everywhere. Image via Pixabay

How Does ITP Work?

Whenever a user visits your website, they are tagged with cookies based on what you set up on your site. There are two main types of cookies – first-party and third-party cookies. A first party cookie is one that belongs to the website a user is on and helps identify users for log-in and tracking purposes. Third-party cookies are cookies that originate from a site other than the one the user is currently on. Third-party cookies are already targeted by various privacy settings and anti-spyware software, and sometimes users delete these cookies manually.

While most third-party cookies will be cleared every 24 hours by ITP, it will keep cookies for websites that users interact with on a regular basis. For example, cookies used for log-ins – like if you used your Facebook account to log into another website – will remain in your browser for 30 days and get refreshed every time a log-in or web visit occurs. The diagram below from Apple shows a visual representation of cookie use and purging for a website that someone visits frequently:


How Will ITP Affect Remarketing and User Tracking?

For most advertisers, ITP won’t affect remarketing and user tracking. According to Net Market Share, Safari is used globally by only about 4% of desktop users and 33% of mobile users. For now, ITP is only rolling out on the desktop version of Safari, so this will only impact a small percentage of overall users.

Furthermore, for Google and Facebook cookies, there should be little to no change, as users often log into those platforms daily. The cookie pool should carry over to the next period with each log-in, adding another 30-day window.

So, What About Mobile?

Whether on a phone or tablet, Facebook is largely accessed in-app, and most searchers use Google daily, meaning their cookies will continue to be available. Safari will keep cookies for sites such as Google and Facebook due to their heavy usage, while less frequented and one-off sites will have their cookies purged in 24 hours.

If anything, this change will help Google and Facebook have a competitive advantage over other companies who do not have users logging into their services every 24 hours. There is one caveat: retargeting cookie pools will most likely still take a small hit due to the few users who aren’t logging into Google and Facebook as often.

What Can You Do?

The most important action you can take is to monitor your remarketing audiences religiously this fall, looking at performance both before and after the launch of the new Mac OS. Depending on the size of your audiences and device usage, it may also be wise to create separate browser audiences in Google Analytics to monitor any impact and performance differences.

So, if you were worried about ITP, take a deep breath and relax. Everything is going to be just fine.