Apple Inc. made waves at the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) earlier this month with the introduction of several new privacy-focused features designed to protect users and their data.
The big question is how will advertisers collect customer information moving forward? Many marketers are scrambling to figure out alternative options as we approach Q4.
The tech giant maintains a strategic stance that privacy is a user right and is taking steps to grant users more ability to opt out of any type of targeting or tracking.
“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering in a press release. “Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.”
As part of the latest update, Mail app will now automatically obscure user IP addresses and locations from tracking pixels. Among other changes, an “App Privacy Report” option in settings will also summarize how often any given app accesses users’ locations, photos, etc. to flag any unwanted data shares.
“At Tinuiti, we believe trust is a bi-directional relationship so we’re facing a major opportunity to meet consumer needs for transparency in data collection and usage. As an industry, we’re pivoting away from dollar and cents marketing to creating strong, custom ad experiences.”
– Liz Emery, Sr. Director, Mobile and Ad Tech Solutions at Tinuiti
“As marketers, we’re not surprised by the continued addition of privacy features in response to consumers’ wants, but it will make it a lot harder for marketers to gauge the success of their media efforts in the same way as before. Traditional KPIs like Email Open will become more vanity and a renewed focus on down-funnel metrics will continue to grow across all channels including email, web and in-apps.”
– Nirish Parsad, Marketing Technologist at Tinuiti
In this post, we take a look at what’s coming in the fall release* of iOS 15, iPad 15, and macOS Monterey and cover everything advertisers need to know about Apple’s latest privacy update including our expert recommendations for the next steps.
*Note: Apple iOS 15 will roll into public beta in July, with a full release “this fall.”
Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference: Latest Features And Next Steps for Advertisers
Introducing iCloud+ (plus)
Launched in 2011, iCloud is a cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple Inc. with an estimated 850 million users. For years, iCloud has enabled users to store data such as documents, photos, and music on remote servers for download to iOS, macOS or Windows devices, to share and send data to other users, and to manage their Apple devices if lost or stolen.
iCloud+ is a new service upgrade (part of the existing iCloud subscriptions). The latest version is Apple’s attempt to amplify their existing cloud with new features including a Private Relay, Hide My Email and unlimited storage for HomeKit-enabled home security cameras. Users must activate/opt-in to use the latest solutions.
What is Private Relay?
According to Apple, Private Relay is a new internet privacy service that’s built into iCloud, allowing users to connect to and browse the web in a more secure and private way. When browsing with Safari—or using DNS queries, or any app traffic to insecure websites—Private Relay ensures all traffic leaving a user’s device is encrypted, so no one between the user and the website they are visiting can access and read it, not even Apple or the user’s network provider.
“In other words, Apple can’t track users, or the websites they visit. Nor can the ISP or ad networks,” Parsad said.
All the user’s requests are then sent through two separate internet relays. The first assigns the user an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not their actual location. The second decrypts the web address they want to visit and forwards them to their destination.
Typically, the traffic flow for a user will look like this: User > Web
But with Privacy Relay the traffic flow changes to: User > Apple ingress server > egress server > Web
According to Apple, this separation of information protects the user’s privacy because no single entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit.
Pro-tip: Keep in mind that local traffic, private domains, VPN, other network extensions, or HTTPS traffic from apps are not included in Private Relay.
Here’s how Parsad explains it:
“Private Relay is part of the iOS 15 update but only works when an iCloud subscriber enables it. Private Relay routes traffic through other servers, hiding your IP address from websites you visit, and hiding traffic from the network. This is similar to how a VPN works, using a single server between you and the website to route and encrypt traffic. Private Relay adds another server, one not controlled by Apple, to further obfuscate your behavior online. Apple doesn’t see the website you’re trying to access, and the other server doesn’t see who you are. Private Relay also eliminates fingerprinting, something ITP can’t do.”
Note: Fingerprinting limitations haven’t been enforced by Apple as part of iOS14.5+ within app attribution, but we expect this will change.
What is the potential impact of Privacy Relay on Paid Media advertisers?
iCloud Private Relays block IP and web browsing behavior from advertisers. As a result, advertisers should prepare to see an impact on Location Targeting and Device Graphs.
“The Location Targeting and Device Graphs are both going to be significantly limited on iOS 15 devices as a result of IP blocking. As it relates to Location Targeting, IP addresses will be mapped to regions but not to the individual’s actual location,” Kolin Kleveno, SVP, Addressable Audiences at Tinuiti said.
“While there are no immediate changes to advertising and measurement programs until the announced changes are implemented, the moves will almost certainly have a sub-optimal, substantial impact on the media measurement industry, particularly in the Connected TV & Mobile Location spaces,” Jesse Math VP; Advanced TV & Video Solutions at Tinuiti said.
What is Hide My Email?
According to Apple, “Hide My Email” lets users share unique, random email addresses that forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private. Built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, Hide My Email also enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.
What is Mail Privacy Protection?
According to Apple, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.
For a number of years, Intelligent Tracking Prevention has helped protect Safari users from unwanted tracking by using on-device machine learning to stop trackers while allowing websites to function normally. This year, Intelligent Tracking Prevention is getting even stronger by also hiding the user’s IP address from trackers.
As we mentioned earlier, this means advertisers can’t utilize the user’s IP address as a unique identifier to connect their activity across websites and build a profile about them.
How will Hide My Email and Other Privacy Features Impact Lifecycle Marketers?
“The latest feature allows users to essentially create ‘burner’ emails to sign up/register for new accounts. Emails to the burner address will forward to the user’s real email address to limit personal information shared with advertisers and to limit spam,” Leah Lloyd, Group Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti Customer said.
“Experiences could suffer if you’re using burner emails with brands. Third-party login systems already cause headaches for user experience and customer support teams. Adding burner emails adds another layer of friction and muddies up databases. The overall impact of Apple’s Hide my Email feature on lifecycle marketing and email advertisers will largely depend on the adoption rate, which is still to be determined,” Lloyd said.
Keep in mind, although email upper funnel metrics are likely to take a hit as a result of Apple’s latest changes, this will open up new opportunities for stronger focus on bottom of the funnel metrics like purchase, conversion, etc.
Below is a chart from Tinuiti’s Email Marketing experts highlighting how we expect Apple’s latest changes will impact various email metrics from open rates to revenue:
What is the App Privacy Report?
According to Apple, with App Privacy Report, users can see how often each app has used the permission they’ve previously granted to access their location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts during the past seven days. Users can check whether this makes sense to them, and take action by going to the app in Settings if it doesn’t. Users can also find out with whom their data may be shared by seeing all the third-party domains an app is contacting.
How will App Privacy Reports impact marketers?
“It doesn’t prevent the data from going out, but it shows the user what is happening with their device. With the App Privacy Report, there is potential for increased opt-out of app tracking via ATT or at the device level in addition to the iOS14.5+ push,” Liz Emery, Sr. Director, Mobile and Ad Tech Solutions at Tinuiti said.
What are “Focus” Updates for Notifications?
“Focus” Updates to Notifications allow users to customize how they receive messages (calls, texts, push notifications from apps, etc) based on what they’re doing (driving, work hours, sleeping, gym time, etc).
According to Emery, mobile app advertisers will need to be “strategic about how and what they message consumers about” to combat complete notification opt-out.
“Brands should always consider the value to the consumer with each notification. If there is no strong value, don’t send it.”
What is Privacy-Preserving Ad Attribution?
Privacy-Preserving Ad Attribution looks to replace what cookies did for attribution, but the work is done in the browser. The goal of this proposed solution is to allow advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their web-to-web and app-to-web ad campaigns on the web without compromising on user privacy.
But according to some advertisers, Apple’s latest solution is not enough.
“Apple’s ad attribution solutions are only supported in Safari, to be a fully supported standard, it needs to be implemented on other browsers. If Apple can’t get there, we’re going to have two very different ways of measuring ad effectiveness between Apple’s Safari solutions and Google’s Chrome bird-themed solutions,” Parsad said.
“Apple and Google are creating two very different browser standards. If neither supports the work of the other, we’re going to have two very different environments when it comes to understanding campaign effectiveness”
Note: This is a developing story. Please check back as Tinuiti will be collecting historical and current data leading up to the Apple iOS 15 fall release.