Apple Mail Privacy Protection: What is it and how will it change email marketing?

What is Apple Mail Privacy Protection?

At its Worldwide Developer Conference on June 7, 2021, Apple announced a number of new features which “help users better control and manage access to their data.”

These new features will go into effect with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8 (which will most likely be released in the Fall of 2021).

The announcement that’s arguably gaining the most attention is around Apple Mail Privacy Protection—a new feature in the native Apple Mail app which “stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user.” Apple Mail Privacy Protection will allow consumers to prevent senders from knowing when an email is opened, and it will mask IP addresses so they can’t be connected to other online activities (or used to pinpoint a consumer’s location). 

As an optional feature, users will need to manually enable Apple Mail Privacy Protection to take advantage of the additional privacy. Right now, Apple’s policy change applies to customers who use the native Mail app on their iPhones, iPads and Mac laptops, which account for about 38% of email opens.

And based on consumer response to Apple’s recent app privacy feature, it seems likely that Apple Mail Privacy Protection will see high adoption rates. 

Why is Apple releasing Mail Privacy Protection?

Consumers are becoming more aware of the data created when they use devices to surf the web, access apps, read emails, and interact on social media.

For Apple, developing features that make it easy to disable tracking illustrates that consumer privacy is a priority to their brand, making it easier to cultivate and cement customer trust. Over time, trust leads to increased brand loyalty, stronger retention, and increased sales.

Being proactive on privacy also somewhat insulates Apple from government officials across the globe. If Apple can demonstrate its position as a leader on the issue of consumer privacy, it’s less likely to endure the kind of government inquiries and regulation that stymie growth.  

Will this kill email marketing?

This change from Apple will have an impact, but it doesn’t reduce the importance of email marketing as a part of your digital marketing toolkit.

Yes, email opens have served as an early indicator of email engagement as well as providing indirect data for inbox placement.

Yes, this change from Apple could mean opted-in users’ emails may all show up as opens, adding to challenges we’ve already seen with open rate metrics (including Samsung devices having images turned off as a default setting).

Yes, this will require a reset of benchmarks, and a new reliance on metrics related to overall engagement (e.g., click-through rate, conversions, bounce rates, unsubscribe rate, etc. which indicate relevancy of the content, relevancy of messaging, and the responsiveness of the targeted audience). 

But it is in no way the end of email marketing.   

In our next post, we’ll talk about how marketers can make adjustments to accommodate these upcoming changes.

We’ll also explain why marketers should develop more focus on active engagement metrics to get a clearer picture of email marketing performance and how email can fit into the bigger marketing plan.  


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