Safari’s New ITP Cookie Policy: Impact on Google Analytics Tracking

djbaxter

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How Will Safari’s ITP Cookie Policy Updates Impact Google Analytics Tracking?
by David Fransen, SearchInfluence.com
August 29, 2019

In 2017, Safari debuted its Intelligent Tracking Prevention protocol (ITP), which was devised to add more rigid restrictions on the degree to which outside parties could track Safari users across the web without those users’ knowledge or consent. Since then, Safari has steadily ramped up its war on trackers as the less scrupulous among advertisers, using already questionable tracking techniques, began developing increasingly shady and manipulative workarounds to continue soaking up that sweet, sweet consumer data. This has all culminated in the release of ITP 2.2 in May of 2019, which now very aggressively and severely limits the kind of tracking options available not only to the more ignominious and exploitative of advertisers, but now also to the well-intentioned businesses and marketers simply trying to quantify and optimize the user experience on the websites they manage. ....

Initially, with ITP version 1.0, Safari set out to limit the use of third-party cookies. ITP set a 24-hour window for third-party cookies to actively collect data if the user didn’t directly interact with the third-party website that set the cookie. So drawing from the previous third-party cookie example above, if a user directly visited nefariousadvulture.spam within 24 hours of receiving the third-party cookie, it could stay active and continue tracking. If not, the cookie effectively expired after 24 hours. Since the whole premise of this kind of advertising and tracking meant that users were pretty much never going to directly visit the sites serving the ads, this marked a doom and gloom moment for the nefarious ad vulture world. Meanwhile, users of first-party cookies remained generally unaffected. To this point, the general standard was that first-party cookies could remain in place for 30 days before being purged unless a user actively removed them before that point.

Many advertisers just rolled up their sleeves and figured out how to have partners or clients set their third-party cookies as if they were first-party cookies, which then proceeded to do exactly what they had done all along in terms of tracking users across numerous websites to build consumer profiles. This, as it turns out, was the tipping point where Safari started moving more in the direction of burning the entire house down to kill a spider on the window sill. ...

With ITP version 2.0 in 2018, Safari essentially blocked the use of third-party cookies altogether. Shortly thereafter in early 2019, to counteract and preempt the inevitably increased abuse of first-party cookies by nefarious vulture types, ITP version 2.1 reduced the 30-day gestation period for first-party cookies to 7 days. While webmasters and marketers were still reeling and trying to piece together the impact this dramatic change had on their analytics, Safari rolled out ITP version 2.2 in May of 2019 reducing the 7-day first-party cookie expiration to 24 hours. Basically, rather than play whack-a-mole with devious and irresponsible cookie manipulators, Safari just poisoned all the moles along with the grass, dirt, and any other less whack-worthy beings that happened to share their habitat. ...

Until this year, Google Analytics would be able to track user activity on a particular site over 30 days. Now, for Safari users only, it only gets 24 hours. ...
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