Apple Safari Gets Aggressive with Tracking Prevention

Posted on March 26, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple Safari with 11 Comments

Apple has implemented what it calls “full third-party cookie blocking” in Safari, making its web browser even more private. The changes impact Safari on macOS, iOS, and iPadOS.

“Cookies for cross-site resources are now blocked by default across the board,” Apple engineer John Wilander writes in the announcement post on the WebKit blog. “This is a significant improvement for privacy since it removes any sense of exceptions or ‘a little bit of cross-site tracking is allowed’.”

That last bit is a dig at Brave, which is widely acknowledged to be the most privacy-friendly web browser available today, aside from niche products like Tor Browser. Brave features aggressive anti-tracking functionality, but it does make minor exceptions related to not breaking how the web works. Safari, now, does not, and Wilander notes that Apple is seeking to get its alternate solution for cross-site integration, called Storage Access API, adopted as a web standard.

Indeed, Apple believes that its new approach to tracking prevention will be adopted by other browsers. And it will report on its experiences with full third-party cookie blocking to the privacy groups in W3C to help other browsers make similar changes.

“Safari is the first mainstream browser to fully block third-party cookies by default,” Wilander continues. “As far as we know, only the Tor Browser has featured full third-party cookie blocking by default before Safari, but Brave just has a few exceptions left in its blocking so in practice they are in the same good place. We know Chrome wants this behavior too and they announced that they’ll be shipping it by 2022.”

Apple’s approach to tracking prevention appears laudable, but it would be far more interesting if its browser worked on more dominant platforms like Windows and Android. For now, the majority of users are still advised to do what I recommended months ago: Use any browser not named Chrome.

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Apple Safari Gets Aggressive with Tracking Prevention”

  1. ivarh

    I must be one of the few that actually use safari as my main browser. I have credge and firefox installed but my goto browser on my mac is safari.

  2. yoshi

    Even on Android does it make sense not to use Chrome? I feel like Google is tracking everything I do on Android anyway.

  3. dcdevito

    I applaud this move by Apple, and since switching to all Apple devices last year Safari is my main browser of choice anyway. However, it's not all great news. With this update came the removal of support for offline web apps in Safari - and while I don't necessarily see it as a big deal since I find the overall user experience to be somewhat lacking these days from that front, I do find it a bit unnerving that technology companies aren't adding any new features or functionality towards web apps. Google was my last hope but I gave up completely on them, I am hoping Mozilla can keep the web thriving.

  4. daniel7878

    do you think they'll ever start supporting Safari on windows again?

    • techwiz118

      In reply to Daniel7878:

      I can't imagine Apple doing that. There is no profit incentive for them. They subsidize the cost of all their software development via sales of hardware. Even if Apple thought about supporting Safari on Windows again, I'm sure the math works out such that they realize that it would have practically no usage share on Windows. There is just no incentive for them to do it, no matter how you slice it.

      • Paul Thurrott

        Well, there is one, actually, and it makes as much sense as any of the services nonsense they're doing. Given the numbers, the vast majority of iPhone users have PCs, not Macs. And syncing between the two makes sense. And it would provide another end point for their services. I really don't understand why Safari on PC isn't a thing. It's one more foot in the door to the Apple ecosystem. iMessage too.
    • Paul Thurrott

      I can't see that happening.
  5. lvthunder

    I had to turn it off because it broke a photography training site I subscribe to. When they add stuff like this they need to make a whitelist available.

    • richardbottiglieri

      In reply to lvthunder:

      Yeah, this is why everyone really needs more than one browser on their system. Firefox or the new Edge have more toggle switches, so this site should work with either of those browsers. That said, it's still a good idea to keep this feature turned on in Safari. If a site doesn't work properly, just use one of the other browsers for that site. Firefox + the Firefox Facebook Container extension (or the Firefox Multi-Account Container extension) is a good combination for using social media sites like Facebook, too.

  6. Saarek

    "it would be far more interesting if its browser worked on more dominant platforms like Windows and Android" Safari might not be dominant in terms of traditional PC browser share, but it's 24% of world wide mobile traffic (52% in the USA) is not to be sniffed at.

  7. kjb434

    I love the new Edge's aggressive tracking protection (optional to turn on). Glad to see Safari following suite.

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