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Intelligent Tracking Prevention – redefining the cookie ecosystem

By Alexis Fillon posted 08-01-2019 11:02 AM


Originally published on the Digital Analytics Blog on June 5, 2019 by Chris Tighe, Editorial Manager at AT Internet
See the original blog post

ITP - Redefining the cookie ecosystem

With its latest ITP system update for iOS and macOS, Safari is blazing the trail for increased privacy among the major browsers. Earlier this year Firefox also updated its privacy policy, and even Microsoft and Google are set to give users more control over their cookie options. Are we witnessing the start of a major new trend for web browsers?

ITP has been around for a while now. Introduced in June 2017, Safari’s privacy feature began cancelling any 3rd party cookies from being deposited on a browser by default. In March this year, Firefox introduced new privacy rules with the release of 66.0, and Safari came out with ITP 2.1 which also restricts 1st party cookies.

With 14 and 15% respectively, the combined hits generated by Firefox and Safari account for nearly a third of the internet. Blocking 3rd party cookies by default could therefore have a seismic impact on companies that rely on cross-site traffic measurement and retention analyses.

The technical consequences

ITP doesn’t only affect cross-site tracking ­– by drastically limiting the lifetime of first party cookies, it potentially prevents a user from being recognized from one session to the next.

This leads to distorted figures with an inflated number of unique visitors, audiences that do not reflect reality, and a complete fragmentation of conversion paths. In practical terms, on the basic indicators, session and new visitor figures are artificially inflated. In terms of allocation, ITP and especially ITP 2.2 have a bias in favour of free channels (less likely to include parameters in URLs) and contact points at the end of the several-day process (favoured by the limited cookie duration).

Firefox 66 has just introduced a pre-checked box in the new browser settings that automatically prevents the deposit of 3rd party cookies; while it’s private-browsing mode cancels all hits. Safari already blocked 3rd party cookies by default – its new rule now means that all remaining cookies that are not ITP compliant are deleted after 7 days.

Safari’s requirements state that cookies must be http-only, i.e. server-side, as opposed to client-side management (JavaScript). They must be explicitly set with a secure flag and only on https – secure http. Their collection domain also needs to be the same as the website domain, i.e. 1st party.

User analysis and the ITP

To ensure that their traffic is not significantly affected by ITP, analysts today need to be able to rely on a powerful and high-performance analytics solution. Analytics tools will always be impacted by web browser evolution, especially with the increasing shift towards data privacy. However, it is possible to be fully privacy-compliant and still maintain a clear and detailed overview of your traffic. CDDC (Custom Domain Data Collection) is an AT Internet solution that collects and sends data directly via your own domain name (instead of AT Internet’s domain) so that tracking scripts are not disabled, making it possible to retrieve the majority of traffic lost due to ad blocker usage.

Another key to your analysis is identified visitors. By using identified visitor ids between your sites, you avoid spreading their information to external sites – you can therefore carry out cross-site analysis without affecting user privacy. This is the time to get visitors to subscribe to your sites.

In terms of 3rd party cookies, their days are numbered. For anonymised visitors, the domain structure will eventually need to be updated not just for analytics but for all resources. To stay ahead of the game, you can avoid the impact of ongoing restrictions by adjusting your measurements to ITP standards. Analytics solutions such as AT Internet already offer its customers ways to analyse anonymised visitors with ITP activated on the browser.

If your users rely on ITP 2.2 and try to access one of your decorated links, your site’s cookies generated by JavaScript will be limited to one day storage.

At the leading edge of the digital analytics market, AT Internet’s solution is fully aligned with the evolution of the major browsers. And CDDC is your perfect ally for handling ad blockers and matching the latest browser privacy requirements. Some of our customers have already recovered a significant amount of their traffic using CDDC – no need to worry about technical infrastructure on your end – AT Internet teams will put everything in place.



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