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Tags: Privacy, Technologies, Publisher, Ad Serving

Updated: February 28, 2024

Private Browsing is a feature of the Safari browser that allows users to browse the web without leaving traces in the browsing history or saving cookies to the device. While the usage rate of private browsing varies according to different sources, it is estimated that about 20 – 25 per cent of users utilise this function at least occasionally. Users' interest in enabling private browsing may depend on various factors, such as the importance of privacy protection, the browser in use, the website, and changes in browsing habits over time.

Safari, a popular choice, especially among Apple device users, holds a significant position in the browser market. According to recent data, Safari enjoys a strong global position, ranking as the second most popular browser after Google Chrome. This makes Safari a central platform for publishers, especially considering Apple's focus on privacy features. For example, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) technology is designed to enhance user privacy protection in Safari, which may also affect its user numbers.

In light of these factors, it is clear that private browsing and the popularity of the Safari browser constitute a significant context for digital content and advertising strategies, challenging publishers to adapt to the constantly changing digital environment.


Tags shared via GTM may prevent ads from appearing

Safari's Private Browsing mode and similar private browsing modes in other browsers are designed to prevent user tracking online. This means that cookies, local storage, and other tracking mechanisms are restricted.

For example, Google Tag Manager (GTM) extensively uses these technologies to measure user interaction on websites and manage various marketing and analytics tags. When a user is in Private Browsing mode, Safari may prevent tools like GTM from functioning normally. In practice, this means that if a publisher uses, for instance, Google Tag Manager to distribute ad placement tags, it may result in scripts being restricted or entirely blocked when the user is in Private Browsing mode. Consequently, this may lead to ads not being displayed to the user.

It's important to understand that this doesn't mean all ads are blocked in Private Browsing mode. Instead, script loading may be hindered, especially when tags are distributed via Google Tag Manager. Publishers should be aware of such limitations and implement advertising-serving systems directly onto their websites if deemed significant for their business. The extent of the potential issue can be assessed by determining how many of their service users employ Safari and evaluating what portion of them use the browser in Private Browsing mode.

The challenges described above regarding technology distribution also apply to other technologies conveyed via GTM, such as CMP systems.


Other possible reasons why ads may not appear?

Besides the use of Google Tag Manager, there could be other factors behind the failure of ads to display or track in Safari's Private Browsing mode.

Safari employs Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) technology, which restricts the use of third-party cookies and other tracking mechanisms, thereby affecting ad targeting and tracking. Additionally, using content blockers, such as ad blockers, may block the loading of ads or tracking scripts. Measures to prevent cross-site tracking in Safari, such as restrictions on using cookies and local storage, can also impact ad functionality. Furthermore, requirements of the HTTPS protocol and stricter privacy settings chosen by users may prevent certain ads from appearing.


Stay updated on impacts and updates

Publishers need to stay updated on Safari and other browser updates and their implications on ad delivery. Alternative approaches, such as direct ad integrations without third parties and adapting delivery methods, can help maintain ad reach. Understanding Safari's Private Browsing mode and adapting to it are crucial in developing digital advertising and content strategies, especially when a significant portion of one's audience uses Safari, particularly its Private Browsing feature.

Suvi Leino
By: Suvi Leino

Responsible for marketing and communications at Relevant Digital.


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