What has been changed?

Apple recently announced changes in iOS 15 which allow users to determine their own privacy settings for Apple Mail. These changes will help users to control and monitor apps' use of their data including options to limit email tracking in the Apple Mail app. The Mail Privacy Protection feature is included in iOS 15, which was released on 20th September 2021, and will affect iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey devices (MacOS Monterey release date is yet to be confirmed).

In its official announcement, Apple says: “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”.

With the new Mail Privacy Protection, users will be able to select whether they want to protect their activity from third parties or not. If they choose the “Protect Mail activity” option, Apple Mail will hide their IP and load remote content privately.

How does it work?

The Mail Privacy Protection feature will apply (if turned on) to any email opened on the Apple Mail app - regardless of the email client. This means if a user has a Gmail email account and uses the Apple Mail app, the Mail Privacy Protection feature will apply. This will not be applicable to any other email apps that are used on an Apple device with iOS 15 (e.g. the Gmail app used on an iPhone).

If someone has this feature turned on, Apple will route emails through a proxy server to pre-load the message content before providing the email to the user. This includes pre-loading tracking pixels (which are used to determine if someone has opened an email), meaning all emails will show as opened, even if the user doesn't open it. If the user does open the email afterwards, this is loaded from a cache, not the sender's web host. This means the real open won't be tracked, either.

What does that mean for Force24 users?

All emails sent to Apple Mail users that have enabled Mail Privacy Protection will be displayed as opened, even if the recipient ignores it. This means that using open rates to track campaign success will not be as accurate when sending to Apple Mail users with this feature enabled.

As iOS 15 has only just been released and MacOS Monterey hasn't been released yet, there currently isn't a lot of data about the impact of the Mail Privacy Protection feature. We do, however, know the following will likely be affected when using the Force24 platform:

  • Journey Manager Components: Any journeys with delay stages based on 'make decision' email opens will be affected, as the false open will be when the email was cached (and marked as opened by the Mail Privacy Protection feature).

  • A/B Testing: Subject line tests – or any other kind of test that uses open rates as the winning indicator - will not provide accurate results.

  • Marketing List Segmentation (Engaged/Unengaged Strategies): You may need to reconsider how you classify 'engaged' contacts if you're currently using open rates as a metric as Apple Mail users with the feature enabled will be falsely segmented.

  • Segmented or automated campaigns based on open metrics: Some nurture journeys, onboarding emails, and re-engagement campaigns track whether a user opens an email to determine what email they’ll get next. The false open data could make these contacts go on incorrect journeys/receive incorrect emails.

To minimise the possible distruption this could have on your campaigns we would recommend focussing on other campaign metrics in order to qualify data/leads, such as click-throughs, web activity and lead scoring.

A benefit of this new feature is that this will only work if the Apple Mail app is running, so the false open data we receive indicates the email address is valid and isn't 'bad data'.

Summary

The Mail Privacy Protection feature can only be enabled if a user has upgraded to iOS 15 and opts into the feature. iOS 15 was only released on 20th September 2021, so many Apple users may not have upgraded yet, nor signed up to the feature. This will also only work through the Apple Mail app; if someone uses a different email app (such as the Gmail app) on an iPhone or iPad, this feature will not be applicable.

If contacts do have this feature enabled, all emails will show as opened, even if they have not opened the email. If they do open the email afterwards, this data will not be visible due to the caching. Clicks will still be tracked.

For full details on Apple's announcement see here: https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2021/06/apple-advances-its-privacy-leadership-with-ios-15-ipados-15-macos-monterey-and-watchos-8/

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