Last week, Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection in iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. The new privacy feature will limit the amount of data an email sender can collect about you.
In other words, this could create barriers for email marketers, advertisers and newsletter creators extensively relying on mails to track users’ geolocations, build databases, carry out targeted marketing, generate leads, develop content strategies and more.
According to the content marketing institute, 31% of B2B marketers claimed email newsletter is the most critical aspect in their content marketing strategy. The top 3 types of content B2B marketers use include social media content (95%), blog posts/short articles (89%), and email newsletters (81%). In another study, 59% of respondents said marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.
What’s Apple upto
“In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location,” Apple said in a blog post,
Since 2013, Google has served all images through its proxy servers, which hides users location from at least some tracking applications. In addition, extensions like Ugly Mail and PixelBlock could be used to block trackers on Chrome and Firefox.
How advertisers track your email activity
Typically, a person who sends an email can never know who opened the email or when or if anyone did. But, if the person has a picture attached, it has to be downloaded from the original server. When the user opens it, the mail app queries the server to download that file. Once downloaded, the sender can monitor their server and know if the user has opened the mail.
Nathan Barry, the founder and CEO of email marketing platform ConvertKit said you should ‘periodically remove inactive subscribers.’ “But, the primary way to track engagement is open rates. If Apple sends an open event for every email, then they will be preventing creators from knowing who should be removed,” he added.
So, when you update your iPhone to iOS 15, you’ll see a screen at launch that invites you to select its latest mail service, which lets you hide IP addresses and privately load all remote content.
The feature comes as a default, as noted by iOS 15 beta testers. It also has some limitations. For instance, based on Apple’s demonstration, it only appears to work when you use Safari Mail with your iCloud email address.
Apple vs marketers
As part of a larger privacy push, Apple recently had rolled out App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5. The feature requires all apps to obtain permission before tracking users.
The move drew flak from heavily ad-dependent companies like Facebook.
Check out a few comments on Tim Cook’s Twitter post.
The latest privacy move from Apple comes when media companies, including Facebook, Twitter etc are investing heavily in newsletter-based strategies.
Recently, Twitter said it is looking to introduce a newsletter feature directly to the user profile. The goal is to help newsletter writers leverage their existing Twitter followers to grow their subscriber base.
Interestingly, Twitter acquired a subscription newsletter service, Revue, in January 2021. Writers can use the Revue account (substack) to generate free or paid subscription newsletters. Twitter takes a 5 percent cut off each paid subscription. But Apple’s Mail Protection Privacy can pose a threat to Twitter’s newsletter ambition.
“This is another sign that Apple’s war upon targeted advertising is not just about screwing Facebook,” wrote Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, “They are also coming for your substack.”
From a users’ perspective, the privacy push is a positive step. Often, people tend to misuse users’ information/data and flood them with spams and ads with or without their knowledge.
Besides Apple, Google is also leaning towards privacy. The search giant has launched multiple privacy-focused features at Google I/O.
Barry said he is a huge fan of more privacy controls for consumers, but highlighted the need for a better solution for ethical creators to maintain clean lists and follow best practices. “I hope that Apple, Google, and others will make these tools available so we can all follow their guidelines,” he said.