Apple apes Mozilla with anti-tracking policy for WebKit

WebKit is getting a serious anti-tracking policy

APPLE IS DOING A MOZILLA by quietly saying it will add an anti-tracking policy into its WebKit browser engine; so much for thinking differently.

Mozilla slotted “Enhanced Tracking Protection” into Firefox 63 last year, which blocks common cross-sight tracking techniques like cookies and third-party tracker storage access, thereby helping users keep themselves that little more private from the web’s prying eyes.

And Apple has taken inspiration from Mozilla and basically done the same thing, which in fairness when it comes to copying things, aping the privacy policies and techniques of firms that are good at such stuff in no bad thing.

“We are publishing the WebKit Tracking Prevention Policy, covering what types of tracking WebKit will prevent when other tracking countermeasures come into play such as limiting capabilities and informed user consent, and how WebKit handles unintended impact of our tracking prevention,” explained Jonathan David, an, er, web technologies evangelist at Apple.

“We’d like to thank Mozilla for their anti-tracking policy which served as inspiration for ours.”

Apple said WebKit will prevent all “covert tracking” and cross-site tracking even when it’s not trying to track folks on the down-low.

For developers and websites that might look to bypass the anti-tracking measures, Apple will be having none of it: “If a party attempts to circumvent our tracking prevention methods, we may add additional restrictions without prior notice. These restrictions may apply universally; to algorithmically classified targets; or to specific parties engaging in circumvention.”

And WebKit gurus at Cupertino also seemed pretty dogmatic on how WebKit will show no mercy to even legit tracking.

“We do not grant exceptions to our tracking prevention technologies to specific parties. Some parties might have valid uses for techniques that are also used for tracking,” Apple explained. “But WebKit often has no technical means to distinguish valid uses from tracking, and doesn’t know what the parties involved will do with the collected data, either now or in the future.”

This could bork some useful stuff in WebKit-based browsers such as bot detection tools and techniques for measuring website audiences and the use of social media widgets, which might be a pain for some web developers.

But at least Apple is putting privacy-focused web browsing front and centre, and we can’t fault Cupertino for that, so we’ll just go on pointing fun at borked Butterfly mechanism keyboards. µ

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