ITP: A Timeline of the Ongoing Struggle Between Marketers and Developers: Part 3

by Ricardo Cristofolini

The Future – Where will we go from here?

In case you missed them, this is the third in a three-post article about Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and its evolution.  Part 1 focused on the past – it began with the inception of ITP in June 2017 and looked at the many changes and updates that occurred between then, and December 2019 where that article ended. Part 2 focused on the present, where does ITP stand today? And in this third, and final post in this series, I’m going to look into the future and try to predict where ITP will go next. If you haven’t yet, I recommend reading Part 1  and Part 2 before continuing.

All of the previous updates were initially relevant to Safari only. However, privacy is being taken a lot more seriously when compared to a couple of years ago when ITP was first released. More and more, users are expressing discontent with being tracked online and browsers are listening to them. Each browser company is working on its own product, but all of them are following the same ITP structure of privacy rules to make sure users’ privacy is protected.

Some browsers have a clear and direct approach when it comes to  a roadmap for what to expect in the future, while others keep the secrecy of their updates to themselves, only releasing partial or almost no news related to future updates.

Brave

Brave has released the following:

  • Q3 2020 (July – September), (the latest at the moment of this writing), has already completed some goals and is aiming to keep improving the ITP rules:

Completed:

To be completed:

  • Privacy-preserving replacements for stateless social media widgets.
  • Adding CNAME filtering for ad-and-tracking blocking.
  • Improvements to default filter lists, for better blocking and web compatibility.
  • Reworking storage protections, moving from blocking all 3rd party storage to integrating Storage Access API.

Chrome

The latest Chrome update at the time of this writing was Chrome 85, released September 3rd, 2020. Updates related to API:

  • User-Agent Client Hints were introduced.
  • Default referrer-policy changed.
  • Cross-origin fetches were disallowed from content scripts.

For the full version of updates, I’d suggest checking the Google Chrome Enterprise site. However, further updates and what to expect from Google have, unfortunately, yet to be announced.

Edge

Microsoft provides a really detailed Privacy document if you have the curiosity (and time) to go over it. For the future, as with Chrome, Microsoft still hasn’t announced what to expect. We will probably get ITP updates at least based on the WebKit privacy rules, for sure.

Firefox

Firefox introduced the Enhanced Tracking Protection for desktop on September 3rd, 2019. In 2020, there was a new update on October 1st, but it was more focused on bug fixes and had nothing related to ITP.

As with the competition, it seems like Firefox likes to be mysterious when it comes to new updates and an open roadmap.

Safari

Safari browser is directly linked to WebKit and updates. For the future, nothing much was released at the time of this writing. But, we can expect tighter rules related to tracking prevention, especially because trackers keep “improving” their tracking and going against WebKit privacy rules instead of, maybe, trying to work with them to move forward in this battle.

Conclusion

From minor updates to huge changes, it’s a fact that ITP is adapting to the tracker and vice-versa. Every new update ITP releases blocking a tracker, another way around that rule arises. And in the middle of all of that, are regular users like you and me.

I’m not going to lie, as a regular user, it’s good to know that WebKit is concerned about my privacy and it’s great to navigate the web without “stalker” ads following me all the time. On the other hand, as an Analyst, not knowing what my clients are looking for provides more barriers than roads to better provide them with services and products.

Picture this. A friend shared with you a link about hunting that he found interesting. Well, now you have a brand new ad that will keep following you (unless you use incognito or clean your cookies) around when the idea was just to share something your friend found interesting – to him, not to you.

Either way, here’s a new point of view:

Maybe it’s time to stop looking into how to “break ITP’s rules and keep following users” and start focusing on “how can I make my product/site better so users would come back on their own?”. I can’t stop thinking “is your product/site/design so poor that you have to follow users around so they buy from you?” Advertisements will probably follow the same line of questions and will be looking for solutions – not to focus on what users are doing or where they are clicking, but how can I make my ad content more creative and better, in order to increase conversion without “stalking” my online clients.

Ricardo Cristofolini

Implementation Specialist

I’m passionate about what I do. If you meet my manager or co-workers, they would say I’m a team player, engaged and always excited to learn something new. Like everyone else I have some flaws. However I’m not afraid to work around those to bring the best in myself and for the company.

See more posts from Ricardo