PCM: Apple’s Privacy-Focused Alternative to Cookies for Ad Tracking

PCM: Apple’s Privacy-Focused Alternative to Cookies for Ad Tracking

March 28, 2024 privacy 0

The internet thrives on advertising. It allows websites to offer free content and services while businesses reach targeted audiences. 

However, the traditional method of ad tracking, which uses third-party cookies, raises significant privacy concerns. User data is collected and shared across websites without their knowledge or consent. This has led to a growing demand for solutions that balance effective advertising with user privacy. 

Enter Apple’s answer: Private Click Measurement, or PCM. 

In this quick guide, we’ll explore Apple’s alternative to cookies, the PCM, what it is, how it works, and whether it genuinely offers a more user-friendly alternative.

What is PCM, and why is it necessary?

Developed by Apple, Private Click Measurement (PCM) is a framework for assessing the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns while ensuring user privacy. 

For years, online advertising relied heavily on third-party cookies. These tiny trackers follow users across websites, building detailed profiles based on browsing habits, interests, and demographics. This data collection often happens without users’ knowledge or consent.

Data brokers then aggregate and sell these profiles, fueling targeted advertising practices that are intrusive and potentially manipulative. This lack of transparency and control over personal data has sparked a movement for change. 

Users demand more control over their online information, and regulatory bodies are taking action. Laws like the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe are setting stricter data privacy standards.

Tech companies are responding to this pressure by developing alternatives to third-party cookies. This is where Apple’s PCM comes into play.

In a world where online advertising thrives, PCM represents a significant step forward. It strives to balance effective advertising and user privacy, paving the way for a more secure online experience.

How does PCM work?

Understanding how PCM works requires a breakdown of the involved entities:

Here’s a simplified breakdown of the PCM process:

  1. User sees an ad: When users visit a website that utilizes PCM-enabled ads, they see an advertisement displayed.
  2. Click registration: When the user clicks on the ad, the website sends a signal to Apple’s servers indicating a click event. However, this signal doesn’t contain personally identifiable information (PII) about the user.
  3. Random identifier assignment: Apple’s servers assign a random identifier to the click event. This identifier is unique but doesn’t link back to any specific user.
  4. Conversion reporting: The website then reports back to Apple’s servers if the user completes a desired action after clicking the ad, such as making a purchase. This conversion report also uses a separate random identifier.
  5. Aggregated data sharing: Apple periodically shares reports with advertisers that summarize the effectiveness of their ad campaigns. These reports include the number of clicks, conversions, and other relevant metrics but don’t reveal individual user data.

Using these anonymized identifiers and aggregated data, PCM offers a way to measure ad campaign performance without compromising user privacy.

Is PCM better than cookies?

When it comes to user privacy, PCM is a clear winner compared to cookies. Let’s break it down:

PCM offers a more secure browsing experience with less data tracking. Advertisers can still measure campaign success but with a focus on anonymized information. Advertisers might need to adapt their targeting strategies, and the long-term effectiveness of PCM has yet to be fully determined.

In the meantime, if you’re worried about invasive tracking and advertising on your Apple device, consider an iOS adblocker. These work independently of Apple’s OS, blocking 90%+ of website ads and insidious tracking scripts across your iOS browser and apps. 


PCM marks a significant step towards a more privacy-conscious online advertising ecosystem. 

While the future of ad tracking remains uncertain, solutions like PCM offer a promising path forward. The focus on anonymized data and user privacy paves the way for a more balanced online experience for users and advertisers.

As technology evolves and regulations adapt, we can expect further refinements to PCM and similar solutions, ultimately shaping the future of online advertising.

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