Tracking when you open an email and what you read is something many companies and advertisers trust for their marketing work, plus there are email clients out there that are designed to tell users when the emails they have sent has been sent opened up.
Much of this tracking is facilitated by external images that are loaded when they view an email, and some of it is even more sneaky, with advertisers using invisible tracking pixels. Tracking pixels are hidden graphics that you may not see in an email, but the email client loads them so that senders can collect data from you. Senders can see that you have opened an email to get other information, such as your IP address.
With iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey, Apple stops email tracking with a number of privacy protection features for Mail.
Email privacy protection is not enabled by default, but Apple will mark it as an option when you upgrade to iOS 15 or iPadOS 15. If you run one of these updates, you can turn it on in Settings> Email . Tap “Privacy” and then “Protect Email Activity.” In macOS Monterey, open Mail, go to Mail Preferences, and then click Privacy. From there, you can turn on Protect Mail Activity.
When enabled, Mail Privacy Protection hides your IP address and loads all external content privately in the background, routing it through multiple proxy services and randomly assigning an IP address.
Here’s how Apple describes the feature in its entirety:
Emails that you receive may contain hidden pixels that allow the sender of the email to learn information about you. As soon as you open an email, information about your email activity can be collected by the sender without transparency and the ability to control what information is shared. Email senders can learn when and how many times you opened their email, whether you forwarded the email, your Internet Protocol (IP) address and other data that can be used to create a profile for your behavior and learn where you are.
If you choose to turn it on, Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders, including Apple, from learning information about your Mail activity. When you receive an email in the Mail app, instead of downloading external content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection downloads external content in the background by default – no matter how you do or do not engage with email -the mail. Apple does not receive information about the content.
In addition, all external content downloaded by Mail is routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the sender from learning your IP address. Instead of sharing your IP address, which can allow the email sender to teach you your location, Apple’s proxy network will randomly assign an IP address that only matches the region your device is in. As a result, email senders will only receive generic information instead of than information about your behavior. Apple will not be able to access your IP address.
It is worth noting that senders will see an IP address that corresponds to the region in which you are located, and provide them with general information about your behavior that is not specific and cannot be used to create a profile for your behavior.
You can previously block email trackers by blocking external content loading in the Mail app on iOS and macOS, but Apple’s new feature is superior because you can still see all email content as normal while Mail Privacy Protection works in the background without visual compromises . .
Email senders can still monitor your behavior with tracked links that you need to be aware of, but tracking behind the scenes that you may not notice will not happen.
Mail Tracking Privacy fits in well with iCloud Private Relay, a feature included with iCloud +. ICloud + is just Apple’s name for its paid iCloud plans, starting at $ 0.99 per month. With $ 1 per month, all traffic leaving your device is routed through two separate internet relays, so advertisers can’t see your IP address or location, nor can they link your browser history to this information to create a profile about you .
LICloud Private Relay is not quite a VPN, but it is similar, and it is an incredible feature for the less technically inclined who do not want to think about using a VPN or would not know how, for example older people who need the most protection against tracking fraud.
Apple’s plans for iCloud Private Relay and Mail Tracking Privacy are already worrying advertisers, according to a report earlier this week from Wall Street Journal. Advertising agency Branch Metrics CEO Alex Austin said Private Relay could be “far more damaging to the advertising ecosystem than App Tracking Transparency measures implemented earlier this year.” If IP were to disappear completely, it would be very challenging for many companies to operate, he said.
When it comes to email privacy protection, advertisers are “surprised” that Apple blocked email tracking because of how much harder it will be for brands to know if their emails are working.
These new privacy features may encourage Google to adopt similar measures for Chrome, and a Google spokesperson confirmed that Google is actually considering similar features to block IP addresses.
ICloud Private Relay and Mail Privacy Protection alone are probably reasons to upgrade to the latest software when it becomes available this fall, but the rest of the features that come in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey can be found in our collection tasks.