It’s beta testing season and as a self-confessed tech addict, I am one of those people who install betas on my daily drivers and just accept the inevitable issues that come along with it. With the launch of the latest versions of iOS, iPadOS, and macOS Big Sur, Apple launched lots of new privacy features to help better protect users from being tracked across the internet. Built into Safari across all three platforms, they launched a new ‘Privacy Report’ which provides a summary of the number of trackers blocked, and the most common, which on my device is currently Google Analytics. So, is Safari blocking Google Analytics? And what does that mean for your SEO campaign reporting?
As the news hit the marketing websites, a flurry of panic spread across social media and digital marketing group chats as marketers realised that if Safari blocked Google Analytics from working, we were set to lose a substantial amount of data which is essential for reporting and showing campaign ROI. Installed on over half of the websites across the internet, it’s the number one analytics platform by a considerable margin and the impact of that data loss extends far beyond agencies.
In 3 weeks since the launch of the first beta and the day it was installed on my iPhone, Safari has ‘blocked’ Google Analytics on 365 websites. What wasn’t initially clear though was that this actually meant. Many, myself included, presumed that this was a full block, similar to how other more traditional ad blockers are known to work; simply stop the resource from loading altogether. But this isn’t actually the case.
So Safari Isn’t Blocking Google Analytics?
Not exactly, Google Analytics as it’s own entity functions as you need it to – it’s feeding data back to the platform on how users are interacting with the website. Using ITP (Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0) What Safari is preventing it from doing is loading third-party scripts. ITP is more advanced than you’re average ad blocker and it’s designed more to prevent cross-website tracking, the type that follows you around the internet and builds a profile out of your browsing habits which are then used to target you with laser-targeted ads.
“When Safari says it blocks or prevents a tracker, what it means is that the ITP algorithm has flagged some domain as having cross-site tracking capabilities, and Safari has, among other things, stripped it of its capabilities to carry cookies in cross-site requests, also known as third-party cookies.”
I think perhaps Apple could have used different language to explain the feature as words like ‘block’ do suggest that it was being blocked entirely.
So, will Safari be blocking Google Analytics? The simple answer is no. Apple is really pushing on the privacy protection features, but for the time being, your favourite analytics platform is safe. Traditional ad blockers have long been around and causing headaches for marketers, developers and website owners, but Apple isn’t cutting off advertising revenue, it’s making sure you’re not abusing data. In the long run, ITP may be the saviour of online advertising as it allows people to be served ads which can to some extent be tailored but protect the user’s data and privacy at the same time whilst cutting off third-party cross-website tracking.