For years, Facebook’s sneakiest data-collector has been the “Like” button. Any site that wants Facebook traffic needs one, which means they’re just about everywhere. And in order to work right, the button needs to log you in – which is to say, it needs to know who you are. How else would Facebook know who liked the post? Even if you don’t click, Facebook registers that you loaded the button, which means they get a map of every Like-enabled site you’ve been to, just the kind of data that advertisers will pay to target against.
Today at WWDC, Apple took a direct shot at that system and Facebook itself. Onstage, Apple’s VP of software Craig Federighi described Safari’s new anti-tracking features in unusually confrontational terms.
“We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons,” Federighi told the crowd. “Well it turns out, these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we’re shutting that down.”
This is one of the very rare cases where competing corporate interests actually work out in the favour of consumers. One way or another, this will be added to all browsers.
This kind of blocking functionality already exists in the form of plugins for many browsers, which I’ve been using/recommending for many years. Can anyone weigh in on the state of tracker/ad blocking in Sarfari/IOS?
In any case, I’m glad to see apple officially taking up the issue. I do hope that blocked content is configurable by end users though, otherwise it gives apple a tremendous amount of power to censor web content for ulterior motives.
I’m not asserting this is their agenda, however consider this scenario: once apple has a url/content blocking feature and controls the block-list, it becomes feasible for courts to order them to block content, which apple will legally have to comply with. Countries like china might well force apple to give them control over the block list. So I welcome the feature at face value, but strictly on the condition that users will be in full control over it.