Is Safari blocking Google Analytics?
The short answer, is no.
Eyebrows were raised this week when an Apple Insider and a Search Engine Journal post went live bluntly saying “Safari now blocks Google Analytics on sites”.
The reason for this assumption was a recent Apple press release appearing to show ‘trackers’ being prevented in the upcoming macOS Big Sur.
Adding further confusion, DuckDuckGo also tweeted the about their partnership with Apple in building a black-list of sorts. Again with a screenshot that appears to be blocking google-analytics.com
We're proud to help Apple identify trackers to block, giving hundreds of millions of people more simple privacy without any trade-offs. pic.twitter.com/GAVYhFav7D
— DuckDuckGo (@DuckDuckGo) June 23, 2020
Here’s what’s actually going on
The screenshots flying around showing google-analytics.com being blocked are from a feature in Safari called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” which is normally just referred to as ITP. This feature is enabled by default, and aims to restrict 3rd party cookie usage and has been live in some form since 2017.
It’s also worth pointing out that ITP is not a magical solution that makes browsing completely safe and secure for it’s users. Ironically, there were multiple worrying security flaws highlighted in 2019 – ITP was actually exposing sensitive private information about user’s browsing habits. (The documentation for that are here.)
Safari has been blocking google-analytics.com since 2017.
This sounds dramatic, but is essentially meaningless. We don’t use google-analytics.com for tracking users’ behaviour across multiple sites, the point of Google Analytics is to measure what’s happening on a single domain.
What Safari will be doing is limiting the scope of what people can do with their cookies, but it has not been, and won’t be blocking the network requests needed for Google Analytics to record sessions on your website.
Industry experts have already got their hands on the Big Sur public beta and proven that Safari is still acting like it normally would.
Google Developer Expert and co-founder of 8-bit-sheep Simo Ahava pointed out the following:
Happy to be proven wrong but ITP hasn’t been blocking HTTP requests thus far so it would be odd if they’d suddenly start. Restricting access to cross-site storage is more efficient as it doesn’t lead to breakage as much as blocking the domains would.
— Simo Ahava (@SimoAhava) June 22, 2020
In short, the ITP feature of Safari has been limiting Google Analytics to some degree since 2017, and user tracking through Google Analytics will go on as normal when the next iteration of Safari comes out.
If you’re interested in seeing the original misleading articles, archived links to both are below:
Written by:Barry Bell
Category:What we think
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