Apple WWDC Announcement: Privacy and Pixel Tracking

On Monday, Apple announced at WWDC that iOS 15's Mail application will include important new privacy features, specifically masking of IP addresses and blocking open detection pixel tracking. This, of course, amounts to a significant change, and is likely to impact how well marketers can track email interactions on mobile devices. It also perhaps highlights the different takes on tracking taken by Apple versus Google -- Gmail's spam filters being very heavily engagement-driven and Google having long encouraged senders to send engaging emails (and the implication that carries with it that a smart marketer tracks engagement to tell if things are going well and/or if things need improvement) but Apple saying nope, uh-uh, we don't want senders to be able to track this information. It potentially creates a conflict around sender best practices -- focusing on engagement can be tough when one of your most important methods to measure engagement has been restricted.

I'm sympathetic to Apple here, keeping in mind that bad guys do use open tracking and pixel tracking data, too -- if allowing marketers to suppress unengaged subscribers was the only use case here, I don't think Apple would be going to all this trouble.

This also likely impacts mobile device tracking (i.e. what platform and application was an email read on) and geo-location. This might not fully impact click tracking. But so far, I'm guessing.

What marketers should do about this is a hard question to answer right now. The new iOS version is just being released into beta and it's got a ways to go before it gets to the public. Opportunity to test and observe are currently limited, and things could change to some unknown degree before the final version of iOS 15 is released.

Stay tuned, as I am sure that I, and others, will be talking more about this as we learn more about it.

Bonus new email feature: Did you miss the part where Apple's going to add support for hosting email with a custom domain name? You're not alone; this one almost slipped by me as well. This means Apple could end up hosting customer email at many more domains beyond the usual three.

Another bonus: Here's a link to Jennifer Nespola Lantz, VP of Industry Relations and Deliverability at Kickbox, and her take on Apple's upcoming privacy changes.

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