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Safari update delivers ‘significant improvement for privacy’

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Nicole Lienemann)

Apple has rolled out a significant update to its Safari web browser, reinforcing privacy facilities in a bid to combat cross-site tracking and outstrip rival offerings.

Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP), which in previous versions gave users the option to prevent advertisers monitoring browsing activity, will now block all third-party cookies by default.

The update also contains measures to prevent websites using login credentials to fingerprint user activity and to disable a variety of cyberattack known as cross-site request forgery.

The new features are live in Safari for macOS 10.15.4 and iOS/iPadOS 13.4.

Private web browsing

In January, Google announced its popular Chrome web browser is also phasing out third-party cookies. However, the feature is currently only available in experimental builds and won’t appear in stable versions until 2022, placing Safari streets ahead.

In a blog post announcing the update, Apple WebKit Security Engineer John Wilander celebrated the company's zero-tolerance policy with respect to cross-site tracking.

“This is a significant improvement for privacy since it removes any sense of exceptions or ‘a little bit of cross-site tracking is allowed’,” he said.

“Safari continues to pave the way for privacy on the web, this time as the first mainstream browser to fully block third-party cookies by default. As far as we know, only the Tor Browser has featured full third-party cookie blocking before Safari.”

Apple hopes the update has paved the way for other browser providers to introduce equivalent pro-privacy measures.

“We will report on our experiences of full third-party cookie blocking to the privacy groups in W3C to help other browsers take the leap,” added Wilander.

Via The Verge