FIA files bug report with Apple about cookie blocking emergency alerts

CHICAGO, Oct. 2, 2018 — Jason Bier, President of FIA, reached out to John Wilander at Apple about Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) and its impact on effective alerting that FIA engages in during global threats to life. Mr. Wilander is the Security Engineer behind Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention and requested FIA submit a bug report in Bugzilla. As a result, Jason Bier, on behalf of FIA, submitted the following report. We will keep you updated on progress. PLEASE ADD YOURSELF TO THE CC LIST IN BUGZILLA TO FOLLOW PROGRESS HERE: https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=190209


The purpose of this bug is to request the allowance of third party cookies and other necessary data for emergency messages from FIA Partners and supporting authorities, including the Global Missing Children Alert Hub in the following countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan (Province of China), the United Kingdom and the United States.

Safari currently blocks all third-party cookies by default in its browser. Additionally, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) creates uncertainty on the alert logic, further complicating delivery.

BACKGROUND: The Federation for Internet Alerts (FIA), its partners and supporting authorities relay alerts for serious events such as child abductions or imminent weather threats such as a tornado, tsunami or hurricane. Alerts are displayed immediately using the latest information from official authorities. FIA’s emergency alerts override or overlay other online messages to the public to display this urgent information to the areas directly impacted. The mission is to be a nonprofit facilitator for internet technology and services collaboration among companies, non-governmental organizations and alerting authorities to promote standards-based, all-hazards, all-media, authoritative alerting to individuals in societies worldwide.

Since its inception in 2013, FIA is the largest global distributor of authorized emergency alerts. It’s partners, through FIA, have disseminated over 3 billion hazard alerts. These are imminent threat alerts sent through browser and application advertising space. These alerts include AMBER Alert (Child Abduction), Tornado, Hurricane, Red Flag (Fire), Blizzard, Storm Surge and other warnings to the public. The organization has a running Alert Hub (aggregator) that collects imminent threats and multiple messaging systems within ad technology to deploy these alerts geographically and using dynamic retargeting creative rendering technology for the benefit of the public.

FIA’s success comes from the donation of technology grants and ad impressions, along with volunteers that serve to promote the mission, act as designated software engineers within volunteer partners and facilitate new deployments of alerts like the Digital Signage Federation (DSF). FIA has won 15 globally recognized awards for its technology and mission, such as two Shorty Social Good Awards for Best Technology and two People’s Choice Webby Awards. Safari currently blocks all third-party cookies by default in its browser. Additionally, Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) has limited use of third-party cookies, resulting in the inability for FIA to render alerts. Currently, alerts are sent to browsers and apps using the following methods:

1. Re-Targeting Cookies: The majority of AMBER Alerts sent are through the use of cookies, where ad tech can best measure frequency of PSAs and frequency cap. Additionally, geo-IP information helps serve alerts as required by the US Department of Justice and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Each alert must be served in a geographic area to prevent alert fatigue.  The blocking of cookies by default reduces the ability to serve AMBER Alerts because we do not have access to cookies, and/or they are deleted too soon. Also, the public is unaware of the blocking by default and do not know that AMBER Alerts are being blocked on Safari.

2. PMP: Tornado Warnings and AMBER Alerts are also given priority on major publisher websites through a PMP. This allows premium inventory to make sure the public in the area of a child abduction sees the alerts.  The elimination of third party cookies reduces the ability for PMPs to maintain frequency caps and analytics so that message can be shown.

3. Network Re-routing: Some ad networks receive AMBER Alerts from NCMEC and redirect certain geo-IP traffic to an ad server using tags. These tags inform the network about the emergency, and trigger a call to an ad server that can deploy the specific AMBER Alert to the browser.

4. PSA Ad Inventory: By filtering IP Geo traffic, cookie and non-cookie traffic to serve alerts. Setting frequency caps and acquiring correct geo data can be difficult in Safari as limited data is available.

5.  RTB Inventory: Certain DSPs having budget caps with third party ad tech companies to buy inventory.  Cookies are a primary source of bidding on DSPs, and result in the best way to deliver geographically relevant alerts.  Lack of cookies on Safari removes this inventory in most cases from the DSP traffic flow, artificially reducing available traffic for alerts.

Users are generally unaware of the cookie blocking taking place by default on Safari and the impact on them seeing missing children. Since this alert hub is the largest missing child alerting system, we request that Apple work with FIA to reduce the impact of cookie-blocking by default and/or provide notices that these alerts are not being served and better explain how to turn them on to see alerts.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak with Apple about these challenges, and have a great deal of respect for Apple and its success. We look forward to further dialogue going forward. Thank you. Please visit https://www.internetalerts.org/about to learn more about FIA by watching the videos.  View real-time 7 day rolling alerts at https://www.internetalerts.org/hub/messaging.

Best regards,

Jason Bier
President & Chairman
Federation for Internet Alerts

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