Apple had introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) in the year 2017 to offer privacy to its users. This was done through a tool that purportedly prevented the user’s activity on their browser to be tracked by advertisers. The tool is supposed to target cookies that allow marketers to track the activity of the users and then bombard them with all kinds of targeted ads.
The engineers at Google had made Apple aware of a flaw in the tool that made it do just the opposite. The feature of ITP, in fact, misused and compromised the privacy of its users. When this flaw was first reported in August 2019, Apple thanked Google for noticing it and pointing it out. They had reportedly fixed the problem by December as per a blog post.
Google’s engineers released a paper recently announcing that the problem has not been resolved and is still persisting. The issues that were taken care of by Apple are not the ones that were the root cause.
The ITP, rather than making a list of cookies that it should be blocking, actually learns the detailed browsing activity of the users, including the websites visited by the users. It also collects information about cookies that are able to get into the user’s system. With time, it manages to create an algorithm to block cookies, which can ultimately lead the advertisers to track their users easily.
According to the Engineering Director at Google Chrome, Justin Schuh, “I can assure you that they still haven’t fixed these issues.” He further believes that Apple refrained from acknowledging the researchers and did not reveal the vulnerabilities of the same.
It is not news to hear about the clash between the two giants. They have done so previously over internet privacy. While Tim Cook, CEO at Apple, has been expressing concern over the excessive information collected from users, Google have been actively researching bugs in the Apple Software.
Apple promotes internet privacy, while Google believes that these cookies are instrumental in keeping the use of internet free of cost, but have recently agreed to phase them out slowly. This will require the advertisers to modify their marketing plans. Given the contents of the research from Google engineers, Apple will have to rework their ITP in an effort to prevent tracking of its users.