With the various online services available, web users can do just almost anything on the comfort of their homes.
But when it comes to the internet, know that privacy is a luxury that no one can practically enjoy. Privacy is rare, as most if not all websites and online services use trackers of all sorts to analyze, understand and indeed track users in whatever their doing online.
For good reasons, the information gathered can be used to improve their services, and earn them revenue.
But for the bad, it's certainly a privacy concern for those people who just want to surf the web anonymously.
Everybody has the rights to be anonymous, and why shouldn't they earn that luxury?
This is why WebKit, the open-source engine that is the foundation of Apple’s Safari browser and many other apps on macOS, iOS, and Linux, has announced a tracking prevention policy that aims to severely strict background trackers, cross-site tracking practices and other technologies used to track users.
These trackers and other similar technologies mainly work in the background, essentially hiding themselves away from users' sight.
Average web users won't know their existence, let alone know how they work.
As previously mentioned, these technologies are created typically to support websites' analytics processes, as well as for monetization efforts in which trackers can be used for ad targeting using web user profiling. However, the implications can be much broader than that, as trackers can also impact privacy, as well as altering prices in e-commerce sites, for example.
Even worse, trackers can also be used for malicious purposes, such as to inject malware.
WebKit here, essentially wants them to stop.
In theory, it should be easy. But in practice, it's difficult.
First of all, not all trackers are bad. Second, various kind of trackers are created all the time, and stopping all trackers can essentially cripple websites when opened on WebKit-supported browser, like Safari.
“WebKit will do its best to prevent all covert tracking, and all cross-site tracking (even when it’s not covert),” wrote the organization, adding that the goals only apply to all types of tracking listed in its policy, as well as "tracking techniques currently unknown to us".
“We will review WebKit patches in accordance with this policy. We will review new and existing web standards in light of this policy. And we will create new web technologies to re-enable specific non-harmful practices without reintroducing tracking capabilities.”
And when dealing with circumvention, the organization stated no uncertain terms:
"If a party attempts to circumvent our tracking prevention methods, we may add additional restrictions without prior notice. These restrictions may apply universally; to algorithmically classified targets; or to specific parties engaging in circumvention."
"We consider certain user actions, such as logging in to multiple first party websites or apps using the same account, to be implied consent to identifying the user as having the same identity in these multiple places. However, such logins should require a user action and be noticeable by the user, not be invisible or hidden."
WebKit said on its page, that it was inspired by Mozilla’s anti-tracking policy.
Previously, WebKit has been frowning upon web trackers for years, with the organization adding features intended to reduce pervasive tracking.
What should be affected the most, is the ad industry.
With background trackers being blocked at the browser level, the aggressive stance against tracker can restrict many companies from conducting their businesses. This approach should certainly bother Google, the tech giant of the web, which thrives on online ads.
Google also operates Chromium, the browser engine that powers Google Chrome, the most popular web browser, as well as many other browsers.
Here, WebKit in raising its stakes, is pressuring Google to respond, or risk being called stubbornly invasive by the community of web standards.
It should be noted that WebKit powers many open-source projects, most notably, Apple's products, in which don't actually need trackers for ad targeting purposes. In business perspective, it's like Apple in confronting Google to stop playing its games and subside.
And for whom should benefit the most, it would certainly be end users of the web.
Privacy is a luxury when it comes to the web. Only a few can manage and tweak their settings and by using various tools to keep their privacy private. With WebKit taking its part, luxury should be enjoyed by more people who wishes it.