Apple Stands for Privacy and it’s Making a Big Impact

A titanic shift in online marketing dawns as Apple releases more privacy controls in response to consumer concerns about privacy. This will continue to impact marketing as we know it today and we think the changes are positive and shall be overcome. There’s no going back. Privacy controls are here to stay.

Some have argued that Apple’s concern for consumer privacy is more about knocking their competitors—Google, Facebook and Amazon. That argument belittles the true concerns consumers have over privacy. It is true though that greater privacy gives consumers another reason to pay more for Apple’s products, likely increasing their market share. In fact, some of the privacy measures do come at an extra cost (more on that later).

Apple put a stake in the ground regarding privacy a long time ago:

“Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values. Your devices are important to so many parts of your life. What you share from these experiences, and who you share it with, should be up to you. We design Apple products to protect your privacy and give you control over your information. It’s not always easy. But that’s the kind of innovation we believe in.”

As marketers our success is dependent on generating demand in those audiences most-likely to purchase our products or services, and so, knowledge about that audience, is power. Some people took for granted that as technology allowed them to track people, they had a right to, and consumers are now pushing back on this idea and winning.

I read an analogy the other day that captures what’s being done online to consumers. Picture inviting someone over to dinner, and while you’re cooking, they’re recording everything that you do, while their friend goes around recording everything within your house. They then sell that information to anyone they choose to, and when you protest, they state that you knew about this when you decided to invite them over to dinner, since you didn’t pay for them to come by, they have a right to track and sell this information. I think we’d all be a little uncomfortable with having those people over to dinner again.

We’ve written several blog posts on how companies and countries are changing based on privacy concerns (see links to relevant articles below), but we’re not panicking. Marketing will be impacted, but there were many, many successful marketing campaigns before we tracked people this intimately, and there will be many more successful marketing campaigns after. Good marketers will adapt and thrive.

Below, we’ve outlined the major privacy controls Apple announced at their Worldwide Developers Conference as well as what we think the impact to marketing will be. The privacy controls will concern iOS15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS8.

Mail Privacy Protection

The new Mail Privacy Protection feature prevents the invisible pixels embedded in emails from tracking ‘opens’ and masks your IP address so it can’t be used to identify your location or link you across online activity. All content will be downloaded automatically. This feature won’t be turned on by default, but when people upgrade, they’ll see the option. Additionally, Apple improved its Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature, which hides a person’s IP address from trackers.

Impact on Marketing:

Of the privacy controls to be released for iOS 15, Mail Privacy Protection will have the biggest impact on marketing. The most widely used email client in the world is Apple iPhone, with almost 40% of market share. Mac mail is just over 10%. It is more than likely that when given the option of whether to be tracked or not, most people will choose no. Marketers will no longer be able to use open statistics to understand content engagement, and if you purge subscribers, or you segment subscribers based on how much they interact with your newsletter, your ability to do this accurately will also be seriously impacted.

Marketers will have to look beyond open rates to determine engagement, perhaps analyzing landing page activity only or allowing people to choose their own segmentation for email marketing, for example, how many times they want to hear from you, or which subjects are of interest to them. The impact will be significant but by understanding engagement in this new way while also giving your subscribers the power of choice, should make you a better marketer.

App Privacy Report

If a person has granted an app access to their private data (and because of Apple’s AppTracking Transparency policies they now have a choice), they now have a dashboard where they can see how often that data such as location, photos, camera, microphone and contacts have been accessed. They can also see the third-party domains with which the data has been shared. If they user doesn’t like what they see, they can easily revoke permission.

Impact on Marketing:

We’re not convinced most people will know and use the dashboard. However, we think there will be enough people that do, that you’ll want to be judicious with data use and sharing or your reputation could be tarnished and of course, people will stop using your app, and/or stop being your customer.

Internet Privacy with iCloud+

iCloud+ is Apple’s new premium version of iCloud, for which you must pay to use. The two privacy control features marketers should be most concerned with are Private Relay and Hide My Email.

Private Relay encrypts all traffic leaving a person’s device, preventing anyone—even Apple itself—from having the ability to access and read it. How Apple accomplishes this is interesting. All user requests are sent via two ways. The first assigns an anonymous IP address that maps to their region but not location, while the second decrypts the web address they’re visiting. 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.”

Hide My Email lets people use unique and random email addresses that still will forward to their personal inbox. So, a person can sign up for your newsletter with a fake randomly generated email, ensuring that this email address can’t be linked to them (to track their activity across websites), and if they no longer wish to receive your emails, they can just delete the email address.

Impact on Marketing:

Private Relay will further diminish remarketing quality. Private Relay will impact third-party collection of data, but first-party data is still available.

Hide My Email impacts the ability to identify people across online activities via their email addresses, and perhaps even across your own properties, and you may end up with a lot of fake emails in hand. When people delete emails, it will be like a new way to unsubscribe, and your hard bounces will go up. Reputable email providers automatically remove hard bounces from future sends, so list sizes may shrink.

The various privacy control features introduced by Apple will have varying degrees of impact on marketing. We don’t think Apple will stop here. They will continue to innovate to bring more privacy controls to their customers. It’s in their best interest to do so. Other companies may have to follow suit to compete, as was the case of Google and Chrome. As marketers, we may end up going back in time. A time when marketing and advertising was based on context, with general understandings of target audiences and their behaviours. This will be our new (yet old) reality. There’s no need to panic. Success is still ours for the taking.

Other relevant blog posts we think you should read:

We keep up to the constant change in online marketing so you don’t have to. Contact us today.