As large data-breaches that affect billions of users continue to be revealed, consumers are demanding more privacy and control over their data. As a result, tracking and privacy protections have been top of mind in the corporate and legal worlds over the past several years. Regulation like GDPR in Europe and The California Consumer Privacy Act, as well as operating system updates including iOS & Android ad blocking are just a few examples of change that has been implemented. At Apple's annual WWDC conference in June, they unveiled privacy upgrades to the Safari browser named Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0 or ITP 2.0. Functioning as a feature of WebKit (the browser engine that powers Safari and many other browsers), the update limits tracking capabilities in the browser, specifically for third party, cross-domain tracking techniques that are frequently used in ad tech and affiliate marketing. To learn more about ITP 2.0 from Apple themselves, you can check out their official overview.

ITP 2.0 shipped with iOS 12 on September 17th and not only impacts 100s of millions of users, but also all marketers who rely on advertising technology, affiliate networks, or other platforms that are affected by the update.

Building for the Future of Mobile

Over the past few years, Apple has taken a public stance to further privacy standards and reduce the ability of companies to track users without their knowledge. They've started to emerge as a privacy leader in the tech space, even going on record as supporters for federal privacy regulations.

"The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer— if our customer was our product. We've elected not to do that."
— Tim Cook, CEO, Apple

It's not just talk either— we can see support for privacy in simple product features including facial recognition and Apple's decision to primarily store and process data locally instead of the cloud where it's vulnerable. Their stance is also apparent in more complex operating system updates, including ITP 1.0 that was released in June 2017. This was the first step towards restrictions on tracking cookies, imposing a 24 hour time limit or attribution window.

As forced regulations from new countries and states continue to trickle in, it's critical to stay on top of these updates. A good place to start is evaluating the cookies you rely on.

Not all Cookies are Equal

As ITP 2.0 is defined, it asserts that a resource— a pixel, iframe, or other element— that a user does not interact with is likely not giving the user enough value to allow that resource to track the user. An important piece to understand is how Apple treats different cookies in this update. Primarily, there are two types of cookies:

  • First-party cookies: Cookies set by the developer of the website that that a user is interacting with
  • Third-party cookies: Cookies set by an outside website / URL that may still be accessible

Today, many affiliate networks rely on a pixel that is silently loaded, and never interacted with, which then uses a third party cookie to tie an order back to the click. With ITP 2.0, pixels and iframes that the user doesn't interact with no longer have access to these third-party cookies. ITP 1.0, released in June 2017, resulted in around 2% of total merchant sales untracked, and this is expected to jump up to around 8–9% with ITP 2.0. Not to mention, Criteo has stated this update will reduce 2018 revenue by more than 20%. Without proper action, businesses that rely on this type of tracking through affiliate networks or other parties will fail to properly track sales and lose revenue.

The Benefit of First-Party Cookies

On the other hand, first-party cookies, i.e. cookies that are set directly by the developer, have often been preferred by businesses. Even Facebook has recently announced the use of first-party cookies for Facebook Pixel. Not only are first-party cookies unaffected by ITP 2.0, but in general they offer a variety of benefits including:

  • Marketers own the data— The domain that collects data obtains greatest control and ownership.
  • Branded domains— Users will see your brand (e.g. instead of the Ad Tech's brand (

To join the Button marketplace, we require a deep integration and we use first-party cookies, which not only enables higher quality reporting, but is also also less fragile to changes. As a result, Button technology is not impacted by ITP 2.0. If you are a Button partner, you will continue to enjoy mobile tracking with 99.9% accuracy.

Now What?

As we noted earlier, this is one of several updates to enhance user privacy, a trend that we can expect to continue from Apple and other leaders.

To ensure that your business, and your Q4 goals, are not impacted, the first step is to understand how your technology partners track.

If you're a publisher or a merchant that relies on third-party tracking, or are interested in learning about first-party, mobile-first tracking, the Button team is here to help. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about the impact ITP 2.0 will have on your business or how Button's first-party, partner-oriented solution can help!