Apple's Mail Privacy Protection: Privacy win, Marketing loss?
In its latest push to become the platform of choice for privacy-conscious consumers, Apple has introduced changes that will restrict how email marketers view data about who is opening their campaign emails.
Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature rolls out with iOS 15, iPad OS and macOS Monterey and it could have major implications for your email marketing campaigns.
This article will look at what Mail Privacy Protection means for email marketers.
What’s new with Mail Privacy Protection?
Here are the two main components of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature:
- Masking recipients’ IP addresses
- Privately loading remote email content
Email marketers commonly use “tracking pixels”, a tiny, invisible image file included in an email that enables the sender to check things such as:
- Whether the recipient has opened the email
- What time they opened it
- The IP address from which they opened it
- Whether they forwarded it to anyone else
- Which links they have followed within the email
These techniques have implications for user privacy. If you’re operating in the EU, the EEA, or the UK, you should already be getting opt-in consent for using tracking pixels. But many email marketers ignore this requirement.
However, Apple has a solution for its users—turn on the Mail Privacy Protection feature, and such techniques will no longer work.
Isn’t that already achieved via “block remote images”?
Mail users already have the option to block remote images, preventing the email client from downloading images—including tracking pixels—and rendering the above techniques ineffective.
But for the user, there’s a downside to blocking remote images—they’re no longer visible!
When it comes to Mail Privacy Protection, however, there’s no real downside to opting in.
How does Mail Privacy Protection work?
Rather than blocking the images contained within an email, the Mail Privacy Protection feature downloads them all—regardless of whether the user has opened the email or not.
This means all emails received by users who have opted into Mail Privacy Protection will appear as “opened”, rendering your “open rate” meaningless.
But that’s not all—the downloaded content will be routed through Apple’s proxy servers, stripping the user’s IP address and reassigning a random address denoting only the region in which the user is located.
This random IP address is not specific to a given user, meaning that it will be useless for profiling the user or tracking their activity.
Is this a blow for email marketers?
The impact of Mail Privacy Protection is that marketers’ campaign metrics are likely to become a whole lot less useful.
The feature will make it difficult to measure how many recipients opened an email or followed links. Tracking conversions via recipients’ IP addresses will also become much less reliable.
While this is an opt-in feature, it isn’t possible to distinguish which users have turned on Mail Privacy Protection, or even to measure how many users have done so.
This means that while your email campaigns are likely to be showing higher open rates in light of the feature, this will likely reflect Apple’s obfuscation techniques—rather than any improvement in subject line-crafting on your part.
For more information on how Cassie can help marketers with better analytics related to ITP, download Cassie’s Identify Service datasheet.