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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