Apple recently released another update to Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which brings it up to ITP 2.2. What exactly is ITP, what does this latest update mean, are you ITP 2.2 compliant, and how do you keep your marketing safe from any negative side effects? Let’s take a look.
Remind me, what is ITP again?
Apple created ITP in the name of privacy. Essentially, the original ITP made it harder to use third-party cookies to track Safari users on iOS and MacOS. The big target here was not ad attribution, but rather the creepy ads that seem to follow users around the internet. The original ITP 1.0 added a 24-hour window to cookies in the domains it flagged so they could be tracked cross-domain, after which access to third-party cookies was blocked. This posed problems for many tracking providers since a good deal of tracking is done with third-party cookies.
For a cookie to be capped at one day by ITP 2.2, three conditions must be fulfilled:
- The site that sent the user to the landing page has been classified by ITP as “having cross-site tracking capabilities”
- The link uses link decoration (it uses query string parameters and/or a fragment identifier)
What’s the potential impact of ITP 2.2?
Enterprises using tracking that does not comply with ITP 2.2 may be at risk of losing attribution whenever the last click before a purchase on Safari occurred more than 24 hours earlier. In other words, if the last click occurs more than 24 hours before the conversion, a partner will not be credited for the conversion.
Apple’s Safari browser accounts for 15% of all web traffic and 21% of mobile web traffic globally. Safari’s market share is even higher in the United States, where Safari accounts for 31% of all web traffic and 49% of all mobile web traffic.
Impact’s own benchmarking shows that roughly 87% of Safari conversions occur within 24 hours after the last click. This means that ITP 2.2 could cause lost tracking for 13% of conversions within Safari. Globally, that’s only about 2% of conversions (13% of 15% of total web conversions). However, that number gets higher in the United States, where 4% of all web conversions and 6.4% of mobile conversions could be lost (13% of 31% and 49%, respectively).
How do I know if my tracking is compliant with ITP 2.2?
1) Gateway pixel tracking: This is the old-school affiliate way to track, which involves tracking links and an HTML code snippet that loads on the thank-you page to track the final conversion—it has not been recommended since ITP 2.0 came out in 2018. There are workarounds that allow some degree of post-ITP Safari tracking, but we have encouraged all our clients to upgrade from pixel tracking.
However, these “first-party” cookies are still being written and read by a third party like Impact. Thus, from a cross-domain tracking perspective, there is very little difference between these first party cookies and the third party cookies ITP originally set out to manage.
Fortunately, this is pretty easy for us to solve. We already offer clients custom tracking environments, which include a unique tracking domain. By providing these custom tracking environments to each user of our UTT, we can take our cross-site tracking domains out of the equation; the domain that sent the user to the page will only be used to direct users to one site. The resulting cookies now only fulfill two of the three requirements to be capped, and are thus exempted.
3) Server-to-server tracking: This has become something of a buzzword lately, so it will be helpful to debunk some myths and explain exactly what we mean. Server-to-server tracking has been around for a very long time, and simply means that an advertiser is passing conversion (sale or lead) data back to a tracking provider via API or FTP. That is, the advertiser’s server is sending data directly to the vendor’s server.
This is often called “cookieless tracking”, but the truth is that no tracking method on the web is truly cookieless. At the very least, the advertiser will need to use their own cookies to identify the user and process cart events. Historically the way server-to-server tracking was done was to require advertisers to capture the ID of the tracking link click and then pass that value back when they reported the conversions. The way advertisers typically did this was by storing the Click ID in a cookie and picking it back up when the conversion occurs. They then could send that value in their API call or FTP file to the tracking provider, allowing them to attribute the conversion to an earlier click.
Our approach to API’s is a bit different. Like others, we receive conversion data from advertisers via API. However, we eliminate the need for a Click ID cookie by also receiving data from the advertiser via API on click. Each time a user clicks a tracking link, the advertiser directly sends us anonymized data about that user. Then we can simply compare that click data with the conversion data we receive – and use that to attribute the conversion to the right partner. And because we use a deterministic identity graph, we can traverse a large set of identifiers to make sure we are finding every relevant match for that consumer journey.
Our tracking methodology does not require any new data to be collected by the advertiser for our purposes and is therefore not vulnerable to current or future changes that Safari, Chrome, or Firefox may make. This is why we can confidently call our API suite a future-proof tracking solution: it only relies on information that advertisers are already collecting, and it does not require any new cookies to be saved in a user’s browser (which means that browsers can’t delete them).
Afraid of ITP 2.2 derailment? Keep your tracking on track
From Impact’s earliest days, tracking has figured as a central part of our mission. Impact provides a robust tracking technology platform—whose sole job is to make sure your program continues to work no matter what challenges come up.
Consequently, Impact already offers solutions for marketers’ various tracking challenges—ITP 2.2 or otherwise. Make sure your tracking (and thus conversions and overall program growth) stays on track:
- If you’re an Impact client, please contact your client success manager.
- If you’re interested in upgrading your current solution, contact a growth technologist at email@example.com.
- If you’re not sure whether your tracking is ITP-compliant, you can test your Safari tracking using these steps.