Hyperlink auditing is an HTML standard that allows companies to track your clicks on web site links so that they can gather data on what you typically click on. So when you click on a certain URL, it creates a special link that ping back to it in the form of a POST request to that specific web page. That allows the web page to examine the request headers to see what page the click came from.
Creating a hyperlink-auditing URL is simple—you simply create a normal hyperlink HTML tag that also includes a ping=”[url].”
Hyperlink auditing is unsurprisingly a threat to many private user’s privacy, and those who prioritize maximum privacy typically disable hyperlink auditing. Chrome, Safari, and Opera, however, are developing new updates that would not allow the disabling of this feature.
Safari, for instance, enabled hyperlink audits by default, allowing users to disable it by using a hidden preference. Now, according to developer Jeff Johnson, this flag will no longer be available.
“Unfortunately, this no longer works in Safari 12.1. I actually discovered the issue in Safari Technology Preview 72, and I filed a Radar on January 2, 2019 as rdar://problem/47000341,” Johnson explained in a blog post. “Despite several months notice from me, Apple shipped Safari 12.1 last week to the public with no way to disable hyperlink auditing. I hope to raise awareness about this issue, with the ultimate goal of getting hyperlink auditing disabled by default in Safari. Apple claims that Safari is supposed to protect your privacy and prevent cross-site tracking, but hyperlink auditing is a wide open door to cross-site tracking that still exists. To end this article, I’ll quote the full text of the Radar that I filed:”
Google Chrome’s current version—Chrome 73—allows you to disable hyperlink auditing through the chrome://flags URL. Chrome 74 Beta and Chrome 75 Canary, however, have disabled this flag.
Brave and Firefox currently disable hyperlink auditing by default and have shown no signs of changing that in the future.