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Ask the Experts: iOS 15 Privacy Updates Overview

Ask the Experts: iOS 15 Privacy Updates

Andrew Levenson, Director of Growth at MHP/TeamSI sits down as part of our “Ask the Experts” series, to talk about iOS 15 and a few of the measures that Apple is rolling out as part of that. Specifically focusing on changes in privacy and how that might affect CRM users, whether it be Nurture, HubSpot, or another CRM. 

So if you’re not familiar with Apple’s recent push for privacy with some of their iOS 14 roll-outs, they have really begun focusing on user privacy, putting data privacy in the hands of the user and giving you much more control over how your data is really used by marketers and how your activities are tracked if you have an Apple iPhone. 

So sticking with that trend, with iOS 15 they’ve announced a few additional privacy measures. There are three different main changes that are taking place with iOS 15. 

Mail Privacy Protection:

The biggest change coming with iOS 15 is mail privacy protection. It is the only feature they’re rolling out that is free to everyone. The other two big features that are rolling out with iOS 15 are paid features, which from what we’ve seen, are probably going to have a much smaller adoption than this free feature.

Mail privacy protection allows users to control if their email activity is tracked. This is specific to the Apple Mail app. That app has about 35% market share globally. This in no way affects all users of the iPhone, or all users who use the iPhone to check their email. It just applies to users who use the Apple Mail app. What it does is allow users to opt in to mail privacy features that allow their IP address to be masked and block third parties from tracking email, opens, or other IP data.

Right now, most CRMs (Customer Relationship Management softwares) utilize IP addresses to be able to track activity, whether that be web browsing, email clicks, or email opens. But, they also use email addresses as a unique identifier. So whether it be Nurture, or HubSpot, or any of the other CRMs, most of them use a combination of IP addresses and email addresses. 

So what this Mail Privacy Protection feature will do is block IP address tracking from within the mail app. If you are currently tracking activities via IP address in relation to email campaigns, then specifically email opens would not be able to be tracked. And then, if you are going off of email addresses as the unique identifier, the only thing that will be blocked are email opens.

For iOS 15 as a whole, the biggest change coming down the pipeline will be email opens and a shift away from tracking that metric as a KPI (key performance indicator). It will become significantly harder to track, especially with users who are using this mail privacy protection, which again, is only applicable to users who use the Apple Mail app, and only applicable to users who opt in to this through the app as well. It’s not something that just is defaulted. They have to select that they would like to opt into this mail privacy protection.

Paid Features of iOS 15:

There are two more features that are part of iCloud+, which is a paid service. iCloud+ is an upgraded subscription to iCloud that has additional privacy features. One of them being a VPN-like feature called “private relay”, which prevents sites from tracking Safari users, and allows users to see which websites they’re sending information to. There are already services that can be used right to prevent sites from tracking you and also show you what websites are collecting data, but this is going to make it much simpler for iOS users on this iCloud+ subscription to be able to see that data.

The biggest change that would come from this is that any activity, behavioral or otherwise, that you’re tracking currently for Safari users would no longer be able to be tracked. You will be prevented from tracking website activity, and most activities that take place on Safari. Again, this is only if someone is on an iPhone, using Safari, with an iCloud+ subscription. This is most likely going to apply to a much smaller subset of users than what “mail privacy protection” will apply to. 

It should also be noted, however, that Safari had already disabled cookies last year. Meaning Safari has already had limited tracking within Nurture, within HubSpot, and within any CRM. The changes that would come from this would not be incredibly drastic or different from what has already taken place with some of the privacy measures from Safari.

The other paid feature that comes with iCloud+ is the feature called “hide my email”. Basically what this feature does is that it is an email address cloaking feature that enables users to give sites a fake email address. For example, you could have a promotional email sent to this fake address, and it would go to your real email address, but without giving that website your actual email address. It would also be much easier to unsubscribe from emails, because you could basically just remove that cloaked email address. This protects your data because it’s not your actual email address that’s being tracked, it’s the false email.

Now, this would be fairly detrimental to the life of lead functionality within Nurture. So, in Nurture (and a lot of CRMs) there’s functionality where you’re able to track user activity based on their email address or their IP address. If a user was using mail privacy protection, and they were within the mail app on iPhone, and they had iCloud+, then all these features could be used in conjunction for it to be the most detrimental to tracking. 

If they were using every one of these features, they opted into everything, then theoretically you would not really be able to track any activity based on their email or their IP address. Website activity, email opens, email clicks, and a lot of these different activities would really become “untrackable”. But that’s going to apply to a very small subset of users, because they would have to use all three of these features in conjunction with each other.

What’s the Takeaway?

It won’t affect all users. With mail privacy protection, only 35% of users globally use the Apple Mail app, so it’s a small market share for that app. And for these other features, they would have to also have the paid iCloud+ subscription and opt in to “hide my email” as well as opt in to “mail privacy protection”. All of this together means it will affect a small percentage of users. It’s not something that’s rolling out for everyone that has an iPhone. It’s a smaller subset of people. Additionally, if you use open rate as a KPI for emails, that may be something that might need to be adjusted. 

In the future, not only with iOS 15, but with other privacy measures, open rates may become harder to track. Adjusting that goal, focusing more on click through rates and clicks and activities that happen after the open may become more important. 

Also remember, IP addresses are not the only unique identifier. Within Nurture, and within HubSpot, and within other comparable CRMs, most of them will use email addresses as the unique identifier as well. Just because mail privacy protection is blocking the ability to track an IP address, an email address is still just as useful from a tracking perspective.

That was more or less a high level overview of the privacy changes associated with iOS 15. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out.


Andrew Levenson