iOS17 Tracking Changes: What Marketers Need to Know

September 19, 2023


iOS 17 is here, and now tracking parameters that allow cross-site tracking will be removed from Safari private browsing and links shared in Apple messages and mail. UTM parameters are unaffected, but Safari will remove Google and Facebook click IDs.

Ok, tell me more…

Apple’s focus on privacy over the last few iOS releases is clear, and iOS17 is no exception. At WWDC in June, Apple announced that Private Browsing mode in Safari will be more private, adding Link Tracking Protection to remove some URL parameters. 

Safari doesn’t remove all URL parameters, only those that track an individual user across websites. Apple is not publicizing the list of affected parameters, but we believe that UTM parameters are unaffected. Click-specific parameters will be removed, like those added by Google and Meta upon an ad click. Here’s a site that reports on specific URL parameters but does not yet reflect Privacy Mode on Safari.

In addition, users can opt-in to have Safari remove these tracking URLs even when not in Private Browsing, but most users will not enable this setting.

What’s the impact?

iOS updates take time, so you should expect the effect to begin this week and ramp up as users upgrade their devices to ~90% adoption by the end of the year.

These changes will not affect most paid traffic on Safari because that traffic comes through a publisher, not an email or message. While Safari private browsing will be affected, Marin estimates Safari private browsing is used by 20% of Safari users, but most users only use Private Mode occasionally. Google is more likely to be affected than Meta properties because ad clicks happen in the browser, not in an app.

If you rely on publisher tracking and don’t want to experience data loss, you can look at a third-party tracking solution, like Marin Tracker, that doesn’t rely on Google Click IDs.

You should also ensure there are no errors on your website if you rely on a URL parameter that Safari removes.

What’s next?

Private Click Measurement is Apple’s privacy-safe alternative if you need measurement that is blocked by Link Tracking Protection. Here’s a video from WWDC’21 giving an overview of the capabilities. As of iOS17, this is also available for Safari Private Browsing.

Apple may start applying this logic to non-private modes. If this happens, advertisers can set up dedicated landing pages for each highly granular sub-topic and concentrate their traffic on fewer criteria (such as keywords). This approach will help provide accurate measurement without using parameters.

  • Marin can upload revenue based on the landing page and allocate it to the criteria on a click-weighted basis.
  • Marin can assist with the migration to parameterless criteria / ads
  • For selected customers, Marin can run an incrementality study to prove your ads' impact more reliably.

We don’t expect Google to follow these changes, at least not anytime in 2024, as they are still working on the long-delated around cookie deprecation and blocking.

Need help navigating these changes? Click here to set up time with one of our experts.

Wesley MacLaggan

Marin Software
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