“This year we will be improving the incredible performance of Safari, its elegant design and pioneering privacy protections to deliver the biggest Safari update since it was first released. ”
This is how Apple opened the presentation of Safari during the last WWDC 2020. After affirming that they have long had the fastest desktop browser in the world (ignore that macOS is a small fraction of the desktop in general where Safari does exist), They emphasized how they are pioneers in protecting user privacy, and how they were the first to introduce private browsing., cookie blocking and more recently ITP (intelligent tracking protection). Apple again sins in being too generous with itself.
Neither the first, nor the only ones
Apple’s language is probably its best ally and at the same time its worst enemy. For example, they consciously choose to say that Safari is the fastest desktop browser, when Safari only exists on macOS and the “desktop” includes Windows with almost 80% of the market share, and others such as Linux and Chrome OS that Safari has never set foot in.
They also choose to say in this presentation that they are the first browser to introduce private browsing and cookie blocking, but at the same time admit from other sides away from the show that “at least as far as they know” others like Tor and Brave they did it first.
In fact, the blocking of cookies is only from third-party cookies, and that block that they boast so much about now, and that they completely introduced in Safari 13.1 in early 2020, has been in existence in Firefox since September 2019.
Yes, we are talking about that same third-party cookie block for which Google has suffered so much controversy, and that in Chrome it is beginning to be implemented (since Chrome 80) in a less drastic way due to the shock it means for the web and business based on advertising, like that of Google itself.
The new Monitoring Report
With the next Safari 14 that will arrive with macOS Big Sur they come to introduce a new and interesting function that they have called “Privacy Report” or Follow-up Report. This is a quick view in Safari that shows the user the trackers that the browser is blocking.
This report is also not something that Safari is a pioneer in, Firefox has something similar a long time ago and that is in fact, better and much more detailed with information even from crypto-miners. In fact, the current language of the Safari privacy report is very confusing.
Firefox privacy report details crawlers, how it blocks them, and what type they are
Media like Appleinsider started from a capture in which Safari showed Google Analytics as one of the crawlers that was preventing to tell a story (which they later corrected) in which they claimed that Safari was now blocking the Google service.
Nothing has really changed in Safari, the browser is doing the same thing it did since Safari 13.1: block third-party cookies. Safari does not block the loading of resources, Google Analytics continues to work.
When Safari says that it is “preventing or blocking trackers” what it is doing is using ITP to mark the domain as one that has cross-site tracking functions, that is, using third-party cookies, and prevents it from doing this. It is something that Google itself is already doing in Chrome, and that (obviously for many reasons) does not block the operation of Google Analytics anywhere.
New Safari Tracking Report
Apple says that with that report it wants to give its users “greater visibility” in knowing how the sites they visit are trying to track them and the ways in which Safari protects them.
This is true and confusing at the same timeSafari is giving greater visibility to the crawlers that exist on the websites you visit, but as for how Safari protects you from them, it seems that the browser has blocked all possible crawling when in reality it only blocks cookies and many of those crawlers. (Like Google Analytics itself) they work far beyond whether they can use third-party cookies or not.
Perhaps of all that presentation the only really pioneering thing has to do with extensions. While browsers like Firefox and Chrome itself already spell out the permissions we are granting extensions, and have tightened up on the permissions that extensions can request, Safari has taken a pretty handy idea out of pocket.
Temporary permissions for extensions in Safari 14
The browser will let you decide exactly which extension will have permissions on a certain website and for how long. There, in a click directly from the button of the extension we can decide if we want to activate the extension only for a day, or only on that website.
That part, exactly like this, at least for now, we have not seen it in other browsers. Unfortunately, in our tests this feature has not workedWe have used several extensions and Safari has not shown us the granular permission options. Hopefully they fix it for when they get out of beta.