Apple has updated its Safari browser, specifically the Intelligent Tracking Prevention tools, which prevent advertisers following people around the web.
The latest update is a biggie. It now enables users to block all third-party cookies by default. This is a pretty significant landmark in the history of the web, considering cross-site tracking has been a major part of how advertisers have targeted users down the years.
The change, which apples to iOS and iPadOS 13.4 and Safari 13.1 on macOS, comes two years before Google has promised to roll out the change in Chrome in 2022.
Apple made the announcement on its Webkit blog by Webkit engineer John Wilander, who talked up the “significant improvement for privacy since it removes any sense of exceptions or “a little bit of cross-site tracking is allowed.””
He says the change paves the way for other mainstream web browsers to follow suit by blocking third-party cookies by default. He also says this new setting disables login fingerprinting, a technique that can enable “a website to invisibly detect where you are logged in and is viable in any browser without full third-party cookie blocking.”
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Wilander said it will also protect against cross-site request forgery attacks against websites, while simplifying matters for developers. Apple also thanked Google for analysis that forms part of Safari’s new ability to ensure no Intelligent Tracking Protection state “can be detected through cookie blocking behaviour.”
Apple says the change might seem bigger than it is – being as so many third-party cookies have been blocked since the initial release of ITP within Safari back in 2017 –but today’s move is still a landmark moment. Indeed, the Safari change is so significant we’re surprised Apple didn’t save it until WWDC, scheduled to take place this June.
The announcement comes as Apple updated its operating systems across the board on Tuesday, with new updates for iOS, macOS, watchOS and more.