In 2021, Apple announced the release of a new privacy feature in Apple Mail on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. Any of your subscribers who use Apple’s native Mail app can now enable a new feature called Mail Privacy Protection. In essence, an enhanced privacy mode limits the tracking capabilities of invisible pixels, which are mostly used by 3rd-party vendors to collect behavioral and demographic data about the user who opens the email.
How does Apple's Mail Privacy Protection work?
Apple is encouraging subscribers with iOS 15 devices to enable the Mail Privacy Protection mode. Once enabled, Apple pre-renders any incoming email on their servers, "covering up", or masking, the subscriber's IP address.
Once the email is preloaded, any tracking pixel in the email reports that the email has been opened, even if the subscriber has not yet opened it. If the subscriber later opens the email, the pixels are routed through Apple’s proxy servers, with the “covered-up” tracking pixels.
What will change?
Location data – which is usually determined by the IP address, which is collected by tracking pixels – will no longer be available. Same goes for collecting data about the device the subscriber is using.
However, the biggest impact will be on tracking Opens. In theory, every email that is sent to a subscriber with iOS 15 who has Mail Privacy Protection enabled on even one of their devices will now report an email open for every email sent. Not only that, you will not know when the subscriber actually opens it.
The bottom line: The “Open Rate” metric is probably going to be irrelevant for email marketing. With it, subject-line optimization, or journey orchestration based on opening emails, are becoming a thing of the past.
How much of my data will be impacted?
Apple’s new Mail Privacy Protection applies specifically to the use of the native Mail app on iOS 15 iPhones, iPadOS 15, and the native email application on Mac desktops running on macOS Monterey.
In North America, it is estimated that 50% of subscribers are using an Apple email client on at least one of their devices. We cannot yet know how many of them will enable the new Mail Privacy Protection, but since it is a one-time click adoption is expected to be high.
Moreover, Apple has a track record of swaying the industry to align with its standards, similar to how Chrome is catching up to Safari’s ITP.
How will this update affect my Dynamic Yield campaigns?
Experience Email does not rely on tracking pixels. User identification is done using the CUID that is attached as a parameter (see ESP integration).
This ensures that Dynamic Yield content will continue to be personalized at the user level, even for users who enabled Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature.
However, today content is personalized in real time, when the subscriber opens the email. For subscribers who enable this mode, content will be personalized according to the time Apple “preloads” the email – moving from real time to "recent time”.
Even so, you can still personalize email campaigns with product or content recommendations based on meaningful engagement metrics like browsing history, purchase history, previous email clicks, and any other user interactions. Recommendations will still be tailored to each contact based on their unique profile, affinity, and historical data.
How will it impact how I measure my email campaigns?
Because Apple is preloading all emails, the number of impressions in the reports will be inflated. And because CTR is based on clicks per impression, CTR will deflate.
The primary metric of your Experience Email campaign is revenue. This (and any other event you implement on your site) is not affected by Apple’s privacy enhanced mode. Clicks are not affected either, and any site activity is attributed to your Experience Email campaigns with a 7 day attribution window. You can configure the attribution window to 1 day at the email level.
What is “Hide my Email”?
Another privacy-related feature Apple introduced is called “Hide My Email”. This allows customers to sign up to your site with a “fake” email address, which Apple creates on the fly. Emails received by the fake are forwarded to the user’s real email address.
This means that though the real email address is masked, in terms of identification it behaves exactly like a regular email address, and that you still have consistent identification and a personalized email address.