Counter iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection: Strategies for Advertisers

In this second of two blog posts we’re supporting you in the rat race against the measures taken by Apple as described in this blog post.

As an advertiser or tracking specialist, it’s essential to stay agile and explore solutions to ensure you continue to measure campaign success accurately. By embracing these strategies and staying ahead of the curve, you can navigate the evolving advertising landscape and continue to connect with your audience effectively. The key to success in digital advertising lies in adapting, innovating, and prioritising user privacy in this ever-changing environment.

In the ever-evolving landscape of digital advertising, staying ahead of the curve is crucial. The latest curveball thrown by Apple is iOS 17’s Link Tracking Protection, which strips certain parameters from URLs, making it challenging for advertisers to track user behaviour effectively. But fear not, for we’re here to explore potential solutions to this new challenge and help you adapt to the changing advertising ecosystem.

Understanding iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection

Before diving into solutions, let’s briefly understand what iOS 17’s Link Tracking Protection entails. This update aims to enhance user privacy by removing specific parameters from URLs, such as gclid and fbclid. These parameters are often essential for tracking user interactions with ads and measuring campaign success. An impact analysis of this change was explained in more detail in this blog post.


Now, let’s brainstorm and explore the potential solutions to overcome this hurdle:

1. Private Click Measurement (PCM)

What is PCM?

Private Click Measurement, introduced by Apple, is a privacy-friendly tracking mechanism designed to prevent the collection of personal data while enabling conversion tracking for clicked ads. It’s proposed as a standard to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and aims for broader browser support. This is the solution proposed by Apple as a workaround to the Link Tracking Protection.


Why does it work?

PCM is a workaround for link tracking protection because it allows advertisers to track conversions without having to collect any personal data about users. This is in contrast to traditional tracking methods, such as cookies and IP addresses, which can be used to track users’ browsing activity across multiple websites.

How Does It Work? 

PCM operates by sending a conversion signal from the advertiser’s server to Apple’s servers when a user clicks on an ad and converts. Apple then sends an aggregated report back to the advertiser, displaying the number of conversions for each campaign.

Implementation Steps:

  • Partnering with an ad network supporting PCM, like Google Display & Video 360, Facebook Ads or Google Ads.

  • Adding a conversion signal to your landing pages.

  • Updating the ad campaign to utilise the conversion signal.



PCM has some limitations, such as not providing all the data traditional tracking methods offer, not offering demographics data, and imposing an attribution window of up to 7 days. Also, this approach would mean that the campaigns would need to be implemented differently for different browsers, meaning it is less replicable than other solutions.

2. Intercepting HTTP Requests with a Proxy Server

What is It?

This solution is based on the idea of intercepting HTTP requests with a Proxy Server before the URL parameters are stripped and then sending them to marketing platforms like Google Ads.

Why does it work?

It works because we are intercepting the http request before the URLs are stripped so the stripping will not have an impact. In the long term, this solution is also more likely to resist browser privacy changes than the other solutions.

How does it work?

A proxy server is created,  it intercepts the incoming HTTP requests, capturing necessary data like query parameters and headers. This data is then pushed into the Data Layer, for example, making it accessible for tracking.

Implementation Steps:

  • Set up a proxy server using server-side technologies like Node.js, Python, or cloud-based solutions.

  • Intercept incoming requests and capture relevant data.

  • Push captured data into the Data Layer of your website, for example.

  • Configure tracking tools like Google Tag Manager (GTM) to utilise this data.

3. Header Parameters

What is It?

This solution involves fetching the header parameters, like gclid that are not going to be affected by the URL stripping. A JavaScript variable can then be created on GTM to grab these parameters and send them to marketing platforms like Google Ads.  

Why does it work?

The iOS 17 update’s stripping won’t interfere with the parameters that are currently kept in the HTTP header parameters. At least not for now. In this solution, we avoid relying on URL parameters for tracking.

How Does It Work? 

Implementation Steps:

  • Create a custom HTML tag in Google Tag Manager (GTM) to fetch the header parameter.

  • Trigger this tag on the relevant pages.

  • Send the parameter to the respective marketing platform.

4. Masking Parameters


What is it?

This solution is based on the idea of masking the parameters that are set to be stripped. The parameters are then unmasked on GTM and sent to the marketing platforms.

Why Does It Work? 

Masking parameters prevents Safari from stripping out specific parameters. For example, UTM parameters are not affected, making them useful for tracking.

How Does It Work?

By incorporating parameters like gclid into UTM codes, advertisers can ensure tracking persists. Additionally, alternative naming conventions for parameters can be explored.

Implementation Steps:

  • Consider integrating clickID into UTM parameters.

  • Explore alternative parameter naming conventions.

  • Adapt to potential changes in parameter naming to ensure tracking continues.

If you want to start countering the measures today, reach out to Wout Smelt or Suze Löbker today.


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