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Apple’s plan to keep ad tracking private could save the web as we know it

Apple has a plan to stop advertisers following you around the internet without damaging the economy that keeps the world wide web functioning largely free of charge.

The firm is touting a new scheme that would enable advertisers to track the number of clicks their placement has received, minus the ability to track users’ activities across the web thereafter.

Apple reckons its new Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution (try saying that five times after a few adult beverages) scheme could be the answer to users who feel their privacy is being threatened, rushing to install ad blockers on web browsers like Apple’s own Safari.

The new technology, published by Apple’s John Wilander on Wednesday in an exhaustive blog post, proposes a new way of achieving ad click attributation, minus the cross-site tracking that has web users so upset.

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According to Wilander the plan is grounded in the view advertisers don’t actually need to know it was you who clicked on, or bought something, for their campaign to be effective, they just need to know that someone did.

Apple reckons this could be grounds for an acceptable trade-off between advertisers and web users which can preserve the free and open internet. The three pronged plan works as such, protecting the user’s privacy during each stage of the process:

  1. Store ad clicks. This is done by the page hosting the ad at the time of an ad click.
  2. Match conversions against stored ad clicks. This is done on the website the ad navigated to as a result of the click. Conversions do not have to happen right after a click and do not have to happen on the specific landing page, just the same website.
  3. Send out ad click attribution data. This is done by the browser after a conversion matches an ad click.

Whether advertisers would be willing to adopt the plan remains to be seen, but such a proposal could benefit web users, advertisers and content creators in the long run. If web users continue to flock to ad-blockers then more paywalls and/or site closures are inevitable.

Regardless, Apple is hoping to get the ball running by turning the feature on by default in a version of Safari due out later this year.

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