back to article Apocalypse now: Ad biz cries foul over Apple's great AI cookie purge

Fear of the Adpocalypse has died down in recent months - but new platform Apple releases have revived it. Apple's imminent decision to throttle third-party cookies poses a mortal threat to behavioural advertising, says Madison Avenue, and therefore to Life On Earth as we know it. Apple is building "Intelligent Tracking …

  1. mark l 2 Silver badge

    It sounds reasonable although 30 days is quite a short period, there are websites that I use regularly but probably not once ever 30 days, Amazon and other ecommerce sites spring to mind as ones that I may not use for a few months but might want it to remember my details next time I do. So perhaps 180 or 90 days would be more reasonable?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      >It sounds reasonable although 30 days is quite a short period

      Suggest default and have a tool that allows for notification when cookies associated with a website are about to expire giving the user the chance to okay deletion in a similar way ad blockers and content filters work.

    2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Remembering details

      Amazon and other ecommerce sites spring to mind as ones that I may not use for a few months but might want it to remember my details next time I do

      What about NOT letting your browser store them (where some malware can get at them) and using one of the many tools such as 1Password etc to manage them? Then they are all held in an encrypted store.

      Then you can clear your browser history every day or when you close your browser. Isn't that a better solution?

      Then at least Amazon can't ID you when you want to do a bit of window shopping. That means less of the 'based upon your browsing history, we think you would like' emails.

      The less these people know about you the better IMHO.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        Re: Remembering details

        Yeah, that's a good idea, so some other program can also store all the passwords encrypted just the same as Chrome etc. do. That makes a big difference.

        P.S. if a program has access to your computer such that it can read your browser / password management data files, then it's game over before you start.

        To be honest, putting all my passwords in one place, under the control of a problem that can interfere with my browser and/or auto-update from the net is my idea of a security nightmare.

        How about have it memorise your username and type your password as required.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Amazon and other ecommerce sites spring to mind as ones that I may not use for a few months but might want it to remember my details next time I do"

      What details?

      If you log in, it will pull all the stuff on the server

      If you are on about passwords, just save the password.

      What it won't allow is you browsing Amazon then for the next six months, ad's based on that search appearing in every website you visit, and the associate back tracking i.e. Amazon know what sites you visited and saw those ad's.

    4. James O'Shea Silver badge

      Amazon, for one, will remember who you are as soon as you log in, whether or not you have a single cookie saved. I know this for certain as I just logged in using a brand-new, just installed less than a half hour ago, browser on a brand-new, set up earlier today, account, on brand-new, delivered and set up in Mint this morning, hardware. No cookies or other bumf in sight, at least not until I went to Amazon and signed in. I'd say that any ecommerce site which can't keep track of your account without using cookies on your system is one you really shouldn't be using. What the cookies do is to keep track of _you_; if I kill tracking cookies and the like, then Amazon has no clue about what I do when I'm _not_ on their site. They can and will see everything that I do on their site, but it's THEIR SITE. If I log into another site using the same login, and if that site has an agreement with Amazon, then Amazon can see what I did there, too, and the other site can see what I did on Amazon. So I use different logins. Without tracking cookies et al Amazon would have to put effort into tracking me, where 'effort' is spelled 'money', and the rate of return for that is too small for them to bother. (Google would be a whole different matter, but there are ways to deal with them, too.)

    5. bombastic bob Silver badge

      "although 30 days is quite a short period"

      still WAY too long in my view. maybe asking users if they want to KEEP the thing could clue people in to just how pervasive this practice REALLY is.

      perhaps the answer is to be able to explicitly run one or more windows (or even tabs) of a browser in "stealth mode", i.e. don't actually save cookies [keep them in memory only], and dump related browsing history when you close it. And let the users CHOOSE how long to keep those unnecessary cookies, maybe even on a cookie-by-cookie basis. And how about a 'regex' match for cookies to NEVER keep, like ANY domain with "ad" or "click" in it...

      and so on

      1. DougS Silver badge

        30 day limit

        If you think that's too short because you only visit Amazon twice a year but want it to remember your details, you can turn off this new behavior and things will work like they did before (i.e. how they do today without these updates installed)

        If you want per cookie configurability, regex matches, and so forth you want Firefox.

    6. big_D Silver badge

      I'd rather they expired after a few hours or a day at most. 30 days is too long.

    7. Dick Kennedy

      mark I - the Safari thing is about third party cookies, not the cookies Amazon sets itself when you visit the site (although Amazon also uses browser data). This move won't affect your logged-in status at Amazon. What it does affect is Amazon's ability to track your movements around the web using third-party cookies set when you visit *other* sites.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A simple rule:

    Anything that advertisers dislike, I like.

    The more advertisey they are, the more I enjoy their anguish.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    Awwwww... 'dem poor advertisers.

    As per the title.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    it is sad

    I had (faint) hopes that ad blocking would collapse ad business and, as a result, cause an avalanche of awareness (v. Madonna) leading to the profound shifts in the mindset and vector of progress for the whole Homo Sapiens. I'm truly baffled as to why this hasn't materialised. Maybe next year :(

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: it is sad

      Because ad blocking is optional on browsers and most people take the default. Besides, with Chrome having the majority market share these days, if ad blocking really was to become popular Google would undoubtedly sabotage or disable ad blocking capability. They don't make money off people who block ads, they only tolerate it on Chrome today because it is a minority of users.

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    Less of a foul

    and more of a kick in the nads, and then rolled like a rube for your trouble. Nicely done for once, Apple!

    1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge

      Re: "Nicely done for once, Apple!"

      Would be nicer if they provided a facility to automatically delete cookies at the end of a session like Firefox does. Currently you have to do it manually; I have to use the clear history function on the main menu before I close the browser (and delete everything).

      In Firefox I just block third-party cookies and set cookies to 'allow for session' in the privacy preferences. For the odd site I want cookies to persist I then just change that sites permissions to 'allow' when I visit it and those permissions and cookies remain after the browser is closed. Mind you it won't maintain a log-in on El Reg any more for some reason.

  6. Syntax Error

    Good for Apple. Targeted advertising is justification for their spying on people. Targeted advertising should be banned and the advertising industry can go to hell. Nobody likes adverts apart from advertisers and the advertising industry.

    1. imaginarynumber

      "Targeted advertising should be banned and the advertising industry can go to hell"

      Erm ever heard of iAd, Apple used to brag to advertisers that only knew what apps users had, how they used them, what music they listen to, their ages, gender, and so on.

      They have now given up on iAd but they still sniff your data to sell App Store advertising.

      Whilst I applaud Apple for tackling the cookie issue, they are being hypocritical. You can only take the higher moral ground once you stop spying on your own customers, refusing to let other people make money out of your cash cows is far from being virtuous.

      And yes, Google and MS are just as bad.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Dear advertisers,

    I hear your pain.

    And I laugh in your face.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Boo Fucking Hoo.

    And on this day not a single fuck was given about the plight of advertisers bemoaning the armeggeddon they had brought upon themselves for the years of abuse, annoyance, & malware spreading bullshit they had inflicted on society. We hope they die soon. They will not be missed.

  9. Alistair Silver badge

    Dear Advertisers

    You may not use our product without appropriate licensing fees.

    signed Apple.

    <Hey, anyone recall ABP?>

  10. Joe Werner

    While I dislike Apple

    because of a plethora of things, and their fanbois (and... giirls... is there a female form of this? ok, maybe not[1]), this is brilliant. As a thanks I will stop dissing Apple and the fanbois and Macintosh "computers" (as the BOFH put it). Well, once. That means I can write this one email to a colleague now, some program I wrote under (and for) Linux proves a bit difficult to compile on MacOS X - or whatever it is called, because the libraries are all different or difficult to install or whatever...

    More seriously: This is very nice (for a start), but I would actually like to have websites in one browser tab _not_ know about the websites in the other browser tabs. At all.

    [1] because of all the gender-speak-stuff I tell students in the first lecture that to me "students have no sex", meaning that any noun (in some languages there are different forms for male or female students, professions, ...) or personal pronoun I use is meant for both unless I really stress one genus. I sometimes change male, female and neutral forms within a sentence just to mess with them... Though I also *do* tell them if any of them would really want me to try harder to contact me either personally (don't know their names in the beginning anyway, and there are several people marking the exams, and I cannot be bothered to harbour a grudge about *that*), anonymously, or through the student union (so far: no comments by them, so I guess I'm safe for now).

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: While I dislike Apple

      I would actually like to have websites in one browser tab _not_ know about the websites in the other browser tabs. At all.

      So you want private browsing, which all browsers already support? AFAIK using private browsing mode on iOS every "tab" is separate (tab in quotes because the IOS GUI displays a "pile" of windows rather than tabs on a single window) Do some browsers only protect different windows from each other, and not tabs from each other?

      You'll never have perfect anonymity though. You could browse two different sites, one using Chrome and one using Firefox, and have them "know" about each other if they hit the same adservers. OK maybe not know, but guess with a high degree of likelihood, based on your IP address. Even if you have a dynamic IP, it doesn't reset that often, so it would be a reasonable guess it is the same person/household browsing to both sites even if different browsers were used or one came from a Windows PC and the other came from an iPhone.

    2. Naselus

      Re: While I dislike Apple

      "students have no sex"

      You must've had the most boring university experience ever.

  11. FlossyThePig

    How many ads is too many?

    I accept ads can help pay for websites but...

    I'm using Opera with the built in adblocker switched on.

    A little icon tells me this page has 8 blocked ads

    Click on the icon and the stats reveal 7797 blocked in the last 7 days

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: How many ads is too many?

      Yikes! I clicked on my uBlock Origin and it said it had blocked 735,000 ads since install....I had recently reinstalled everything so that's only six months' worth!!!

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: How many ads is too many?

        Wow, what sites are you visiting? I've only got a very modest 123,830*

        *On my phone. And that is connected via VPN which itself has built in as blocker.

        1. Spacedinvader

          Re: How many ads is too many?

          What the hell are you visiting too?!!? Mine has 4,172 since install and 0 blocked on this site.

          NoScript is quite nice...

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: How many ads is too many?

            I've got three blocked just on this comment page alone. You obviously aren't seeing anything like a true representation of how many ads you're running into because Noscript is "blocking" them before uBlock can get a look. The total you quoted is as meaningless as someone who said they'd never had a virus on their PC, and then revealed they used a 3270 connected to an IBM mainframe as their "PC".

  12. Pseu Donyme


    Session cookies only. Separate session for each tab.

  13. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

    Madison Ave


    They show me ads for things that I recently bought.

    As if I may suddenly decide that I need three more, and I'll forgot where I bought the first one.

  14. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge


    A single day TTL for 3rd party cookies sounds like a short period of time but I'm sure advertisers, trackers, and rabid marketing departments will still manage to abuse it to such an extent that people stop waiting for bloated pages to load.

    I'll stick with the setting to reject all 3rd party cookies.

  15. joed

    I like the 3rd party cookie option offered since forever by FireFox - "keep until I close FF". This plus NoScript keeps snoopers in check.

  16. Irongut

    I've had 3rd party cookies bloked since.... well, since before Firefox existed. It doesn't require any AI machine learning gubbins, doesn't allow them for 30 days (wtf would I want that?) and doesn't break the Internet in the slightest.

    Storm meet teacup.

  17. Ian Joyner


    The two competing views of computers were that 1) they were centralised and could be used to control people and direct an army of workers to do what management wanted – this was business. 2) Computers should be a tool for people to use for their own creative processes (Doug Englebart, Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson, etc). That set up 1 against 2. IBM in the first corner and Apple in the second corner.

    There are still companies that want to control how people think and that is what marketing and advertising are about. Apple is not going to be popular over this one.

    So now maybe 2017 won't be like 1984.

  18. unitron

    The IAB's statement...

    ...includes the (buzz)word "innovate", and Apple's doesn't, so I'm siding with Apple on this one.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Your browser fingerprint is your ID.

    These are not the cookies you are looking for... Your browser fingerprint is your ID.

    Go to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and run their Panopticlick tool.

    Then look at the section "Show full results for fingerprinting"

    You may find your browser has a unique ID anyway - which the servers can use to identify you no matter what cookies or even if you are logged in?

  20. Nimby Bronze badge

    Hardcoding is bad, mmmmkay.

    30 days? So every 31-day month sees weird bugs?

    Besides, smart designers would have implemented a slider, letting the user decide what value they want, to go with the on/always-block/off tri-state checkbox.

  21. Chronos Silver badge

    Oh dear... sad, never mind. This is the first step towards a default policy of "sod off" to people (I use the term loosely) who want to know every last detail of your life. As I've said before, bricks and mortar shops get the local telephone exchange's post code, they all get my defunct and unconnected landline and web biscuits disappear every time I hit the little X at the top right.

    It was starting to get to the stage where they wanted your inside leg measurement to buy a sodding bag of Wotsits. Now, if we can just educate people to stop the human version of trackers (that bloke with the slack jaw grunting from behind the till) adding your details to every damned database in Christendom we'll be well on the way to having these cretins beaten. Okay, it not nearly so bad in that he doesn't follow you around the other shops - probably because he'd get a totally non-virtual smack in the mouth for doing so - and then adds your other purchases to his little electronic list but it's bad enough.

    "Can I take your post code, sir?"

    "What for? I'll take them with me. I don't want them delivering and I don't need a warranty on a packet of screws." -- recent visit to Screwfix

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