Ding-Dong, Third-Party Cookies And Fingerprinting Are Officially Dead In Safari

Social plugins, your cookie-dropping days are numbered – on Safari, at least.

At its Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple announced that the third-party widgets that litter the internet will no longer be able to place cookies on visitors using Safari.

“We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons and these comment fields,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering. “Well, it turns out these can be used to track you whether you click on them or not. This year, we are shutting that down.”

In other words, we’re the anti-Facebook and don’t you forget it.

Facebook can collect data on users and non-users through social plugins littered across millions of websites across the internet.

Apple’s update will roll out in iOS 12 and Mojave, the new Mac OS.

“Now, if you do want to interact with [a plugin] or one of these apps tries to access this information, you get a [pop-up notice] and you can decide to keep your information private,” Federighi said.

On an enormous screen behind Federighi as he spoke was a sample of one of these privacy notifications sitting at the top of an enlarged browser: “Do you want to allow ‘facebook.com’ to use cookies and website data while browsing ‘blabbermouth.net?’”

Apple’s move is a continuation of Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari, which the company announced last year. ITP uses machine learning to block the collection of any cookies without a first-party connection to the user and then limits the amount of time any vendor has access to a first-party cookie to 24 hours.

Beyond cookies, Apple is also pouring cold water on device fingerprinting, a process by which advertisers or data companies collect unique characteristics like specific font types that have been installed, screen dimensions and plugins in order to triangulate identity as a user browses the web.

“Data companies are clever and relentless,” Federighi said.

In its new operating system, Apple will make it much harder for trackers to create a unique fingerprint by only presenting the trackers with web pages that have a simplified configuration and built-in fonts. Because legacy plugins are no longer supported, they also can’t be used to contribute to a fingerprint.

“As a result, your Mac will look more like everyone else’s Mac and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to unique identify your device and track you,” Federighi told the assembled developers to a burst of applause.

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