Apple Mail Privacy Protection FAQ

This FAQ provides initial guidance in response to Apple’s announcement regarding their iOS 15 release, including Mail Privacy Protection. These changes are coming in September, and we will continue to update this document and provide guidance to our customers.

What did Apple announce?

On June 7th, at the Apple annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2021), they announced in their iOS 15 release that Mail Privacy Protection would be enabled on the native Mail app on all Apple devices – iPhone, iPad, and Mac. According to Apple, “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user, which prevents 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.” An implication for marketers is that they would not know when or if a user has opened their email in Apple’s Mail app. The restriction, which needs the user’s consent, would apply to any email opened on Apple’s Mail app (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.).

When will this go into effect?

The iOS 15 release will be available this fall, possibly as early as September. While there is no immediate impact on email programs right now, marketers need to understand what potential impact this change could have and what strategies can elevate email marketing programs. Adobe will help our customers understand the impact and navigate these changes with updates and thought leadership, so their email programs don’t skip a beat.

What impact will this have on tracking and measuring the results of email campaigns?

Data from tracking pixels within Apple Mail will no longer be accurate, which means that marketers will no longer be able to reliably tell when an email is opened. While pre-loading images and pixels and using proxies to anonymize data is not new, several providers have taken similar measures in the past, the extent, method, and scope of implementation is new.

Apple’s Mail app has broad adoption across many providers. Therefore, the impact could be more significant than previously experienced when other providers have chosen to disable tracking pixels by default. The privacy protections, which need the user’s consent, would apply to any email opened on Apple’s Mail app (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook etc.). If the user uses the Gmail app or another mail app, the privacy controls will not be affected. For context, the Apple mobile device market share for Q1 was 17% globally and 55% US.

Are there other impacts?

Apple will, by default, hide IP address information in its native Mail app, Safari browser, and iCloud services. Measuring open rates is not the only aspect of email marketing impacted by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection. Email opens drive send-time optimization strategies, real-time personalization, re-engagement campaigns, and automated multi-wave campaigns. These changes mean that marketers must begin planning to determine what these strategies will look like for Apple users once iOS 15 is released and the privacy protection capabilities take hold this fall. Adobe will help our customers navigate these changes with updates, guidance and thought leadership.

Does this announcement pertain to all emails opened on an Apple device?

The Mail Privacy Protection feature pertains to the user who has iOS 15 AND checks their email in the native Apple Mail app. If the user checks email on the Gmail App or another mail app that is not Apple Mail, even if on iOS 15, the privacy controls will not be in effect. This makes it critical for marketers to segment their lists and database, to determine the potential impact.

What is the impact on measuring open rates, CTORs (click to open rate) and revenue, along with the other metrics?

Email open rate hasn’t always been a reliable metric, with some providers blocking images by default, and others pre-loading images. Therefore, assessing open rate on its own is not a good barometer for analyzing the effectiveness of an email campaign, but it can be helpful when considered along with other email metrics. With the new privacy protection, marketers will have to reduce dependency on open rates and consider other performance metrics like bounces, inbox placement, clicks, transactions after the click. Also, consider what you are measuring: open rates are a function of the subject line; clicks are a function of your offer or content; activity after the click is a function of your products/services/website.

In addition to measuring opens, what else is impacted?

Measuring open rates is not the only aspect of email marketing impacted by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection. Email opens drive send-time optimization strategies, real-time personalization, re-engagement campaigns, and automated multi-wave campaigns. The privacy restrictions will also impact email campaigns incorporating location data for personalization. These changes mean that marketers must begin planning to determine what these strategies will look like for Apple users once iOS 15 is released and the privacy protection capabilities take hold this fall. Adobe will work with customers to ensure a proper strategy is in place to support these strategies and use cases.

What can marketers do now?

If marketers are not doing so already, a good place to focus would be on device-based segmentation, which can be done in Adobe Campaign, Marketo or Journey Optimizer. Device data helps marketers understand which devices your customers use to read your emails, which could be a good starting point for determining the potential impact on email programs. In addition, segmenting by device type will provide insights into how much of an audience uses Apple Mail to read emails. It would also be beneficial for the marketer to understand other campaigns and strategies that incorporate opens as a trigger or metric (i.e. re-engagement campaigns, send-time optimization, etc.). Adobe will provide further guidance as the release of iOS 15 gets closer.

Is there an impact on mobile push tracking?

Currently, we believe this privacy feature will not impact mobile push tracking. That said, there are still many unknowns that we will track and keep customers updated.

How is Adobe supporting our customers?

We will publish additional content that outlines our POV and suggested strategies (near and long term). Additionally, customers can download a Deliverability Guide, take a course on deliverability, and view a recent webinar on deliverability to keep up with the latest trends and best practices. Customers can of course keep an eye out for future blog posts, webinars and updates regarding deliverability, and other evolving dynamics related to privacy.

On this page