Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) 2.1 Update - Part 1

The world of advertising technology and how we track activity is moving to the new world of working. Previously built on underlying technology since the birth of the world wide web, we are going to see a fundamental shift in how online advertising operates. It is essential that advertisers are aware of the changes and how to mitigate the impact.

What is ITP?

Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) is the privacy feature developed by Apple for WebKit, the browser engine used by Safari and Firefox. It represents Apple’s attempt to decrease tracking capabilities by limiting how cookies can be used and the lifespan depending on the cookie type. To date there have been 3 iterations of ITP with ITP 2.2 launching with the next scheduled Safari and MacOS updates.

The Evolvement of ITP

ITP 1.0 was originally launched in September 2017 preventing third parties from tracking users on Safari for more than 24 hours. ITP was aimed largely at limiting pervasive retargeting practices rather than disrupting advertisers’ ability to track ad campaign performance. In response, large companies like Google responded by developing solutions in response to the update, such as update to Google Analytics cookies that are set on the advertiser domain being recognised as 1st party cookies.

ITP 2.0 followed in September 2018 preventing the use of 3rd party cookies completely.

ITP 2.1 launched in March 2019 decreasing the lookback windows of 1st party cookies to 7 days.

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ITP 2.2 will be included on the beta releases of iOS 12.3 and Safari on macOS Mojave 10.14.5, with Apple’s developer documentation stating the update will limit tracking via link decoration techniques, capping client-side cookies to 1 day of storage. This is described as when the following 2 conditions are met: 

  1. A domain classified with cross-site tracking capabilities was responsible for navigating the user to the current webpage.​
  2. The final URL of the navigation mentioned above has a query string and/or a fragment identifier

What are the key areas impacted by ITP?

Cookie-based Audience targeting (including retargeting) 

Any audience targeting comprised solely of 3rd party cookies will be unable to reach users in ITP enabled Safari browsers. Without the use of cookies to identify users, the buying platform will not be able to bid against that audience. Converting audiences may fall back into prospecting buckets after the 7-day window expires, leading to less efficient buying.

Frequency Capping

Bid requests without a cookie ID included will not be eligible for campaigns using a frequency cap due to the inability to determine previous exposure volumes. This effect will be ongoing and without the use of cookies to identify users, the buying platform will not be able to bid against that audience.

Conversion Tracking

It will no longer be possible to track post-view conversions post-ad exposure on ITP enabled Safari browsers.

Post-click conversion measurement will be limited to 7 days. This may impact the conversion lookback window, which may result in over counting unique conversions at a user level (for example, a user converts twice, 10 days apart, this will count as 2 unique conversions instead of 1).

A/B Experiments/Conversion Lift Measurement

The 7-day cookie window may impact on A/B testing and personalisation platforms as users engaging outside of the 7-day window may see multiple tests.

If A/B testing features require the use of 3rd Party cookies to create Test and Control groups, then the system should be configured to exclude ITP enabled browsers.

Site Analytics

The 7-day lifespan limitations imposed on JavaScript-set 1st party cookies in Safari, limits the ability to understand new vs. returning users after 7 days (if the user doesn’t return during that time). This may result in over forecasting reach and unique conversions.

But what share does Safari have of media delivery in Australia and what steps has Resolution put in place to mitigate ITP impact? Continue reading the part 2 of this series here.

About the Author:
Adam Coulter is the Head of Platforms & Capabilities at OmnicomMedia Programmatic. You can find Adam on LinkedIn.