iOS 15: Privacy and the Death of Tracking on Apple Platforms?

In last year’s WWDC, we talked about how iOS 14 would affect user privacy and mobile marketing. That story continues this year.

On June 7th, Apple wrapped up its 2021 World Wide Developer Conference,*  where they announced a host of new privacy features coming in iOS 15 (launching in September 2021) that highlight the ways users can better control and monitor how apps and websites use their data.

Below we take you through the most important ones that will affect how you market your brand to your mobile users.

1. Mail Privacy Protection

As part and parcel of the larger move to help users take back control of their data, Apple announced their Mail Privacy Protection update. And it has serious implications for email marketing.

In simplest terms, the update will render tracking pixels in Apple Mail useless, effectively preventing email senders from reliably using invisible pixels to collect information about the user’s interaction with your email.

Not sure what those tracking pixels are? They’re invisible pixels that emails use to tell marketers when a user opens an email, on what device, in what location.* They’re used by marketers to make emails more personalized, such as a brand showing winter images to an email recipient in Switzerland vs. summer images for a recipient in the Bahamas.

Impact

Of course, this will affect the attribution and performance measurement of your email marketing — particularly if a good section of your users is opening emails from Apple Mail. In that case, your open rates will become unreliable and you should consider performance measurement more in terms of conversion events users perform after email clicks.

2. iCloud Private Relay

Apple is touting iCloud+ as combining the best of iCloud with the latest premium features,  including Hide My Email and Private Relay, which we tackle below.

Private Relay bakes a privacy service right into the iCloud service. While using the Safari browser, a user’s data will be encrypted as it leaves the device and gets sent to two separate internet relays. These relays anonymize the IP address of the user to a region (but not a specific location) and then decrypts the URL they want to visit so they can access it without being tracked.

Impact

For iCloud+ users with Private Relay enabled, marketers won’t be able to rely on 3rd party cross-site user profiles based on specific IPs and instead should focus on building rich first-party user profiles.

3. iCloud Hide My Email

Hide My Email lets users share a random email address that forwards to their personal inbox whenever they want to keep their email address private. The feature is built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, and it allows users to create and delete as many decoy email addresses as they need. It’s all in an effort to give users better control over who is able to contact them and how.

Impact

By allowing users to easily create a single-use ‘burner’ email address for each app/website they use, Apple is further undermining the use of email address as a 3rd party cross-site profile identifier, putting even more of a premium on building first-party user profiles going forward.

4. App Privacy Report

App Privacy Report allows users to see how often each of their installed apps has used their granted permission to access location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts data during the last seven days. Users can also view all third-party domains an app is contacting in order to better understand who else may have access to their data.

Impact

Marketers must be responsible with user data in order to earn and keep their customers’ trust. App Privacy Report gives users better insights into how your app is using (or abusing) their information and an easy way to revoke access if something seems suspicious. Marketers should take care to review which domains their apps are sending data to, and ensure any solutions they use are a proxy for first-party data.

Key Takeaways

It should come as no surprise that Apple is reinforcing its commitment to user privacy. For mobile brands, all of these new privacy enhancements mean one thing: collecting, analyzing and acting on first-party data in the context of your app is going to be an even more important component of your overall user retention strategy.

Marketers need to have the right tools to segment, understand, and engage customers within their apps in order to deliver value, earn trust, and retain their customers.

Want to prepare for the changes iOS 15 will bring? Schedule a call with our mobile marketing experts to learn how CleverTap’s analytics and marketing features can help you understand and engage with your customers.