Some publishers using newsletters as a marketing and news-sharing channel have expressed concerns about the new Mail Privacy Protection feature built into iOS 15 as an improvement to user privacy.
Mail Privacy Protection is a new feature that restricts email services and advertisers connected to these services from collecting information about their users.
How explained by Apple in a subsequent WWDC session, emails may contain embedded images used to collect analytic user information; remote images that are opened and retrieved from third-party servers leave a data trail showing when, where and on what type of device an email was read.
The data gathered from image fetching and other strategies is vital for marketers, newsletter publishers, and other businesses that rely on an email delivery model. Email open rates provide insight into audience engagement and the overall effectiveness of a campaign – information that, in some cases, translates into dollars.
It’s unclear exactly how Apple will handle this feature, although the company claims its system will go to masking users’ IP addresses, preventing senders from knowing when an email is opened and blocking the collection of data via pixels. Some have speculated that the inbox on iOS 15 is opened and checked by an intermediate server from Apple before the content is sent to users.
Apple explained the news of the Mail Privacy Protection in an online session of the WWDC:
If you’ve used embedded images to measure the impact of your campaigns, there are a few changes to be aware of. Since the mail content can be loaded automatically after delivery, the mail display time will no longer be correct. And because that content is loaded without revealing people’s IP addresses and without headers, the location and type of device reading the mail isn’t revealed. And you will see your emails as open regardless of whether the user reads them or not.
As noted by the iOS 15 beta testers, users will have the option to protect email activity the first time they open the Mail app after the update. The feature is also enabled by default in the system settings. As with the transparency of app tracking, the e-mail privacy protection will likely see high activation rates from users.
As a result of this change, ad-based newsletters may have to look for alternative analytics solutions, but some experts say the situation isn’t that bad for paid newsletters. The impact that Mail Privacy Protection will have on the sector will only be measured at the end of the year, after the final release of iOS 15.