Apple announces plans to stop Facebook’s web tracking tools

Apple Mojave MacOS
Image courtesy of Apple

During WWDC today, Apple unveiled plans that will likely cause tension with Facebook – it’s going to put an end to the social network’s ability to track users within the next version of its iOS and Mac operating systems.

“We’re shutting that down,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief.

Soon, Safari will ask you for permission before allowing Facebook to monitor your activity through cookies. It currently does this through embedded features on website such as the share button and its comments section, which Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called an “invasion of privacy”.

“We’ve all seen these – these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields.
“Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not,” said Federighi, demonstrating an alert within Safari that reads “Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?”

Apple will also attempt to put an end to a tracking method called “fingerprinting”, which tries to track users across the web even after they’ve deleted their cookies. It does it by looking at various other things within the users browser, such as installed plug-ins and fonts, and matches that to its existing data. To stop this, Safari will present less data, essentially making your Mac and IP indistinguishable from the millions of others.

While this all sounds great for user privacy, the move has already been criticised by journalists and publishers, who claim it will make it harder to monetise websites. No longer having this cookie data will mean publishers won’t be able to target ads as effectively, which will result in less clicks and therefore less revenue. To combat this, Peter Sciretta, the editor of SlashFilm, says publishers may well resort to even more clickbait articles to get more hits and keep current income levels.

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