FAQs About Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP)

Reading time: 7 minutes

If you’re an avid fan of Apple products, then you should be very familiar with the Safari web browser. It’s the default browser on iPhone, iPad, and even macOS devices. Safari is renowned for its simplicity, as it features a clean interface that’s really easy to navigate. In recent updates, particularly with the launch of Webkit, the Intelligent Tracking Prevention technology used by the Safari browser has been improving significantly. We’ll take a closer look at what intelligent tracking prevention is, what it does, and what it means for AdTech vendors. 

What Is Intelligent Tracking Prevention?

We should first consider what intelligent tracking prevention is before taking a closer look at how it can affect you. It’s a feature embedded in Safari, the well-known web browser that was developed by Apple. This web browser can be found on most Apple devices. Intelligent tracking prevention, or ITP, was introduced as a way of strengthening the overall security and protection that Safari is able to provide users. 

The main aim of ITP is to block any trackers that are present on a website. Trackers, also known as third-party cookies, play an important role in the collection of user data when an ad server needs to know which ad to display on a website. One of the main priorities with the ITP technology is to stop cross-site tracking. This is a strategy that allows trackers to track user behavior and data across more than just a single website or domain. It’s a highly effective technique that AdTech vendors often use to deliver more efficiently targeted ads to web browsers. 

How Does Intelligent Tracking Prevention Work?

The intelligent tracking prevention system implemented in Safari primarily relies on machine learning. This is a type of artificial intelligence that is capable of learning. By feeding the system data, it is able to recognize certain patterns and properties to identify specific elements on a website. A Machine Learning Classifier model is used in Safary and the ITP technology. This technology is now capable of detecting which websites are most likely to have cookies that are related to cross-site tracking

Once the technology detects a website that has cross-site tracking cooking, then the ITP solution will put restrictions on the cookies that the particular website is able to create. For example, certain cookies may be blocked completely in order to ensure the user’s data remains protected and is not tracked after they leave the website. 

What Restricts Does ITP Place On Cookies And Other Web Browser Storage?

There are several restrictions that ITP enforces in order to provide a greater level of protection for the user. By default, it blocks all third-party cookies. These are the cookies that are created by an ad or tracking server and not by the website itself. 

In some cases, ITP will also block certain first-party cookies. These particular cookies are text files that the website itself creates and stores on the user’s device to enhance their experience on future visits. 

When a cookie was created using the document.cookie command in JavaScript, then it will only be kept for seven inactive days. With this in mind, if the user accesses the website again in these seven days, the cookie’s lifespan will once again become one week. 

In cases where the cookie uses link decoration and its creation is linked to a tracking domain, then Safari will delete it after a 24-hour period. 

The ITP technology does not only focus on cookies, however. Non-cookie data that the Safari browser stores are deleted on a weekly basis, except if they are accessed within this time. 

How Has ITP Evolved?

The first version of ITP was introduced with the launch of Safari 12, the default web browser on devices that came out with iOS 11. This happened in 2017. Even though its initial release was already quite impressive, based on the features presented by Apple, newer versions have been released in order to make it more protective for the end user. Additional restrictions come into place every time there is a new release for ITP, which is usually applied when the user updates the Safari app on their device. 

Which Companies Or Services Are Affected By ITP?

Several companies are likely to be affected by the new changes in ITP. This includes vendors that offer AdTech and MarTech platforms. AdTech platforms rely on cross-site communication and tracking in order to determine the behavior of users and then to show the right ads to the user. MarTech platforms are also impacted as they rely on third-party cookies to track user data as well, which is usually used as a way to get a better view of the audience and how people are using a website. 

In the process, both publishers and advertisers may find that ITP has an effect on them. When websites are unable to create third-party cookies for cross-site tracking, it reduces the accuracy of user data that is collected in the process. This user data is used to determine behavior and interests. When ads show up that the user is interested in, then they are more likely to click – leading to more revenue for the publisher. With limitations in this type of data, ads become more generic on the website. This often means the ads that show up are not highly targeted, which are also the ads that usually bid the most. 

On the advertiser’s side, they may find it difficult to effectively target their ideal audience. The advertiser’s ads may show up to users who have no interest in the products or services they provide, thus leading to a low click-through rate and an increase in expenditure. 

What Are Possible ITP Workarounds And Solutions for AdTech Companies?

There are certain workarounds that companies are currently exploring in order to find a solution that won’t affect them as much when it comes to ensuring targeted ads are displayed in Safari. A couple of experts have commented and provided possible solutions, but they are all still being investigated and tested to determine which options will work best. 

Both AdTech and MarTech companies will need to make adjustments to their current systems in order to work around the new features that were implemented with the release of the latest ITP version. These workarounds may include the use of local storage systems or using HTTP responses in order to create first-party cookies instead of relying on the traditional way third-party cookies are created. 

Another solution is to use a visitor ID and take advantage of JavaScript to handle cross-site tracking and communication. 

How Does ITP Impact Walled-Garden Advertising Ecosystems?

The biggest companies that rely on cookies, such as Google and Facebook, didn’t have to worry about ITP in its earlier versions. With the latest versions, however, they also become affected by the cookie-blocking functions that are now, by default, turned on in Safari. 

The major change here comes in the form of a permission request that is now necessary before widgets can gain access to the user’s personal information. For example, when a website allows the user to sign in with their Google account, the user will now first have to give the site permission to use the Storage Access API. If this consent is not given, the user will not be able to log in by using a Google or Facebook account. 

How Much Of The Browser Market Share Worldwide Does Safari Have?

A majority of people who own Apple products do tend to prefer the use of Safari as their web browser. There are other browsers available on the Apple App Store, but since many of these individuals have become used to how Safari works, they continue to use it as default. Safari is only one of the many web browsers that people can use, however. Among everyone who has a web browser installed on their computer or mobile device, 18.34% of these browsers include Safari

Can Safari Users Still See Ads?

Safari does not necessarily block ads on websites but rather the cookies that are used to collect user data across multiple sites. This data is used to deliver personalized ads to the user when they visit a website. With this said it’s still possible for people who use Safari to see ads on your website or the ads that you have placed on a platform. The major problem, however, is that the ITP technology blocks the third-party cookies your targeting system uses, which means lower-paying ads are more likely to display on the website. 


Multiple new versions of the ITP technology have been released alongside Webkit. While the advancement of technology is great for those who own an Apple product, it can cause problems for publishers who are trying to display ads on their websites, which is often an important revenue stream. There are; however, certain workarounds that may help to reduce the loss of profit and income both publishers and AdTech vendors can make following the latest releases of Safari’s built-in security protocol. 

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