Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

Wheres The Downside To Mail Privacy Protection?

At Apples WWDC 2021, Apple focused very tightly on improving the security of their products. Many people dismiss this as a “marketing line” and although there are some worrying trends in the way they are going about things, this is the Apple way I approve of. One of the biggest push backs has been against their improvements to Apple Mail that removes tracking and spying tactics used by marketers.

Dubbed Mail Privacy Protection, it nullifies the tiny little trackers in emails you receive, ones that relay loads of your private information to servers without your knowledge.

Presumably Apple will route emails through a proxy and load tracking pixels on their servers before serving the email to you and I am really struggling to find a downside to this. There will be loads of people waiting to tell me how wrong I am, just as they did last time I pointed at them. I am happy to be proven otherwise, but most of they people that speak up are ingrained in a business that needs this data, but my conclusion is drawn from three areas.

  • If your newsletter is free, you don’t (or you shouldn’t) care if people read it or not, because the work involved in producing it is exactly the same.
  • If your newsletter is paid, you are paid by the people that sign up to receive it. Thus it makes no difference if people actually read it or not. The cost of production is the same, and you get paid the same regardless.
  • If you send marking emails, you will need to see if your emails are successful or not. This is the only area where tracking would matter to you, and to this is say tough. Full disclosure I am involved in this area of business and I am still happy Apple are turning off the tap to those more predatory than myself.

You see, there is nothing inherently wrong with tracking if an email is opened or not, it can be useful to know. We have it in message services such as iMessage, and you have been able to do this optionally in Exchange email for years. However these are transparent and something the end user has to agree to. Presumably using the method detailed above, all tracking pixels would be marked as opened anyway, and then it is up to the user to read it or not. However most tracking doesn’t stop at this.

Take a look at most marketers email dashboard and you will be able to see not just when it was opened and what links are clicked on but also how many times and where the person is! Data that should be protected unless a user opts in to share this with you. Pixel tracking is one of the many scourges of the internet and I trust Apple to lead the fight against it.

We cant say for sure if the open rate metric will no longer be valid, but with certainty everything else will be killed off and I for one am overjoyed!

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