With iOS 15, Apple introduced several new privacy-focused features for users of iPhones, iPads and Macs: iCloud Private Relay, Hide My E-mail, and Mail Privacy Protection. Here’s how they affect end users and what they mean for network operators.
iCloud Private Relay
Here’s how Apple describes this feature:
Normally when you browse the web, information contained in your web traffic, such as your DNS records and IP address, can be seen by your network provider and the websites you visit. This information could be used to determine your identity and build a profile of your location and browsing history over time. iCloud Private Relay is designed to protect your privacy by ensuring that when you browse the web in Safari, no single party—not even Apple—can see both who you are and what sites you’re visiting.
As an end user, your privacy is protected. Sites can’t build a profile of you and serve you targeted ads, and no one can see which websites you visit. While this feature is still in beta, it has been rolled out to anyone who wants to enable it, and works well for the most part. It is currently limited to Apple’s built-in web browser Safari, and while there are some reasons you may not want to use it, if you value online privacy it may be a feature worth looking at. Check out Apple’s Support page on how to enable iCloud Private Relay.
Network Owners and Enterprise
As a network owner, there may be a few things you need to do prepare your network or web server for this feature.
In terms of its effect on enterprises, 9to5mac has this to say:
Depending on the type of organization, you may be in an industry that needs to audit all network traffic, so that might become a concern for you. However, in this early implementation of iCloud Private Relay, only Safari traffic will be affected, so traffic from email apps and corporate file sharing apps will remain unaffected. Apple may expand the use of iCloud Private Relay in the future, but currently, it’s just Safari.
If you’d like to essentially disable this feature on your network, Apple says to return negative answers from your network’s DNS resolver for Apple’s servers:
For marketers, like vacation rental property owners, hotels, and businesses, this feature could have several drawbacks and complications. Because it can be used to mask the user’s location, it could cause marketers to run afoul of GDPR regulations. It also helps prevent fingerprinting, which of course many marketers use to deliver targeted content to users.
Hide My E-mail
With iOS 15, users can choose to hide their e-mail from websites when signing up for services, products, newsletters, etc.
Hide My Email is a service that lets you keep your personal email address private whether you’re creating a new account with an app, signing up for a newsletter online, or sending an email to someone you don’t know well.
There are two key ways to use Hide My Email: With Sign in with Apple, which lets you create an account using a randomly-generated email address directly within a supported third-party app or website. Or with iCloud+, which lets you generate as many random email addresses as you need on your device, in Safari, or on iCloud.com, which you can use for whatever site or purpose you choose.
For users, this means they can keep their actual e-mail address private, while still accessing services, websites, and information.
For companies, nothing really changes here. You still see an e-mail address for the user and you can still e-mail them. It doesn’t matter that it is a randomly generated address; e-mail will still be delivered to the user’s inbox. While it is easy for a user to simply delete this generated e-mail address, there shouldn’t really be any meaningful effects on newsletter signups, user signups, etc.
Mail Privacy Protection
In the Mail app on Mac, iPhone and iPad, users can add a layer of privacy to their email:
Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders from learning information about your Mail activity. When you turn it on, it hides your IP address so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. It also prevents senders from seeing if you’ve opened the email they sent you.
This means companies cannot track if Apple users have opened their e-mails. This is an important metric for marketing. Litmus says Apple’s Mail clients represent over 46% of newsletter mail opens.
However, in October 2021, ConstantContact reported that open rates hadn’t noticeably changed after a month of iOS 15 adoption:
“We regularly review and publish the average email industry rates for Constant Contact small business customers. With Apple’s recent iOS 15 update on September 20 including Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), we compared the average email open rate across all industries in August and September. At this time, our data shows no change in open rate. Both months come in at 17.6%.
Here’s a podcast about the effect of these changes on marketing. In the end, companies and marketers need to
move with changes in technology, and privacy has become a huge facet of technology. It is one of Apple’s priorities, and with iPhone, iPads and Macs making up a big share of the market, companies have to serve those customers and marketers have to figure out how to market to them.
Written by Matt Corkum, Digital Content Manager for SolutionInc.