With the launch of the new macOS, High Sierra, Apple have made an interesting move. Their browser Safari will now not only block third party cookies, but will also make use of machine learning for ‘intelligent tracking prevention’. This will increase the number tracking systems which can be identified and blocked, and allows adaptation to techniques that may not have been flagged by other blockers.
For marketing this makes it much harder to pursue Apple’s core demographic. Remarketing will not be an option for these users and Affiliate marketing will become less useful, with Affiliates unable to reap the rewards of bringing in Apple users. When looking at reporting, the return on ad spend for these users will effectively disappear, incurring the media costs, but without the ability to join the transactions back to the ad spend.
It sounds bad, but in Europe, Safari’s market share is 12%, leaving most users as they are. A proportion of that 12% may not upgrade to the newer OS, making the total even smaller, however, it sets an interesting precedent.
What will happen if this technology is baked into the next iOS?
Apple and the iPhone have been a dominant force in the mobile space for years, accounting for around 49% of the UK market, 43% in the US and around 13% globally, so what will happen if this technology is baked into the next iOS? That decision could rock the foundations of mobile and cross device advertising, leaving large portions of advertising spend as speculative investment, with only estimates of return possible.
The cynical side of me feels that even if this does roll out to iOS, the information is not gone forever. Following the increasing monetisation of users and personal information across the technology industry, it seems likely that Apple would sell the data, or the ability to gather data, to advertisers and third parties.
The big players of Silicon Valley are seldom far behind each other. Microsoft and Google have advanced machine learning capabilities, so it is not a huge leap of the imagination to see them looking at a similar tool for Edge and Chrome, with the same walled garden approach and data traded as a commodity.
Data is being called the ‘new oil’ by the likes of IBM , Fortune and Wired, and if that’s the case tracking will become an arms race and Apple may have just fired the first shots.