Apple's privacy features in Safari are shaking up the advertising market

Safari search bar iPhone X
Safari search bar iPhone X (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Intelligent Tracking Prevention is impacting advertisers.
  • Marketing executives are saying that the technology is "stunningly effective" at preventing tracking.
  • It is causing Safari users to be devalued in the advertising market.

Two years ago, Apple unveiled Intelligent Tracking Prevention for Safari which aimed to protect users of the browsers from unwanted tracking. It was yet another in a long-running move towards more privacy on behalf of the company for its customers, and this technology, in particular, seems to be having a major impact on the advertising industry.

In a report by The Information (opens in new tab), executives within the online publishing industry have said that the technology has been "stunningly effective" at preventing companies from identifying users' behavior across the web. One executive says that it has led to a devaluing of Safari users.

"The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted," said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. "There's no easy ability to ID a user."

On the other hand, it has also created somewhat of a discount market for those who want to save on advertising, as long as buyers are okay with the data being less precise. The Information reports that the cost of reaching a Safari user has dropped as much as 60% while Chrome users continue to get more expensive.

The cost of reaching Safari users has fallen over 60% in the past two years, according to data from ad tech firm Rubicon Project. Meanwhile, ad prices on Google's Chrome browser have risen slightly.

Apple's Safari privacy features paint a stark contrast in tracking when compared to users who chose to use a different browser like Chrome. According to Nativo, which sells online advertising software, only 9% of Safari users allow tracking whereas 79% of Chrome users do. This is in part because many of Safari's privacy features are turned on by default.

Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It's a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google's Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies.

Some believe that the devaluing of Safari users is a mistake, based on the demographics of those who tend to own an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. They put the responsibility on marketers to adapt to growing privacy enhancements and uncover new ways to reach the people they want to get in front of.

"Apple users are more valuable to advertisers based on demographics, being higher income, et cetera," said Jason Kint, CEO of industry trade group Digital Content Next. He argues that Safari users have been "wrongly devalued" in the short term and says marketers just need to find better ways to reach them online.

Read the full report from The Information here (opens in new tab).

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.

  • I believe the phrase these days is: “Apple for the win!” :-)
  • If Apple's Safari is for the win, then why are more and more Apple users looking at using other web browsers, instead of using Safari? Could it be that the vast majority of the world don't use, or tied into Apple and their platforms or ecosystems? Could it be that Safari is the least compatible and compliant web browser on the market today, which is 100% true. Check out html5test. The most compatible and compliant web browser with today's web standards is Chrome, which is 100% true.
  • I use Brave on iOS most of the time. For this site I use Firefox on desktop with AdNauseum to poison the ads since you guys don't apologize for spoiling shows and games, and aren't really about Apple anymore with all the Pokemon Sword/Shield SEO/spoiling you've done. Let alone the fact you guys don't care about Pokemon since I don't think Renee fixed his "fighter type" glitch after I pointed it out numerous times. I've been here since TiPB, and once I find an alternative I'll jump ship, just like I switched from AC to AndroidPopo after they stopped letting me view as a list not whatever WebGarbage.0 nonsense they made that dumpster fire.