iOS 17, along with iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma, adds a new anti-tracking system to the Safari browser to prevent users from being tracked through hyperlinks.
As was briefly addressed during Apple’s WWDC 2023 keynote, tracking URL tags will now be automatically removed when browsing in Safari’s private tab, or when using Mail or Messages. These tags are automatically appended to the end of the URL, in a similar way to how a browser cookie works, in order to identify the source of traffic to a particular web page.
These tags are fairly benign, allowing websites to serve personalized ads, or track which sources have the most success in directing users to a website. However, this is undoubtedly a form of tracking users across the web, something not many people, and Apple itself, are keen on.
Good for users, rather bad for advertisers
We’ve seen similar anti-tracking systems in previous versions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac software, like when Apple introduced the App Tracking Transparency option for apps. While the feature for Safari won’t have as much of an impact as the system that applies to every iPhone app, it could still have a noticeable impact on user privacy.
As a compromise for advertisers, Apple will offer a more general private click measurement value. This does not give individual data, but it still gives some indication of what leads users to a particular page.
WWDC 2023 brought us more new features to look forward to across the Apple software ecosystem. The best iOS 17 features we’ve seen so far include the new Journal app and StandBy mode, while in iPadOS 17 we get an overhaul of the lock screen and external camera support. macOS Sonoma adds widgets and desktop enhancements to Mac games through new developer partnerships and a new conversion system to help PC titles work on Macs.