Apple Mail App Privacy Protection: What Email Senders Need to Know

Updated on September 2, 2021

More information on Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection has become available since the initial publication of this article on June 17, 2021. Read on for the latest information on how Mail Privacy Protection will affect email senders. We will continue to update this article as we learn more. 

At Apple’s WWDC conference on June 7th, 2021, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). The Mail Privacy Protection update is part of Apple’s larger initiative to help users take control of their data; however, it has a number of implications for email senders. To better understand how Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection could affect your email program, we asked our email deliverability experts to answer our most pressing questions.

What is Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update?

Mail Privacy Protection is a new option located in the Apple device settings of iOS 15. When users open the Apple Mail app for the first time after downloading iOS 15, they will be prompted to choose what data is shared when using the Apple Mail app. Users will be able to decide whether to hide their IP address and location information and/or enable image caching which anonymizes open tracking from email senders.

How does Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection affect email senders?

By anonymizing open tracking, the Mail Privacy Protection prevents email senders from fully understanding how MPP-enabled recipients are engaging with their businesses’ emails. While senders can still look at click tracking, it will be more challenging to recognize unengaged contacts or evaluate the success of an email campaign without open tracking data.

When will Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection be live?

iOS 15 will likely launch this September with the adoption of iOS and MPP increasing over time. 

How do we expect MPP to impact engagement data?

MPP impacts engagement data from recipients who have configured their email account within the Apple Mail app on any of their devices and enabled MPP from iOS 15. 

It is difficult to predict MPP’s impact on overall engagement numbers. It is likely that any message sent to a mailbox that is configured with Apple Mail will be “opened” by Mail Privacy. This means that even gmail.com or yahoo.com mailboxes could generate false opens if they are connected to the Apple Mail app. Even if the recipient usually uses the Gmail app or a Chrome browser to view their emails, simply having the mailbox configured with the Mail app could result in non-human opens.

How will MPP anonymize opens?

We are actively researching and testing this new feature and will continue to share our findings as iOS 15 launches. Initial findings have shown mixed handling of emails for MPP-enabled recipients. For some messages, an anonymous proxy server fetches all of the images. For other messages, only a few images are fetched, and some messages behave as they always have.  

Is there any way to determine if a recipient has this feature enabled?

No, not with a great deal of accuracy. Initial testing is showing us that these opens come from very generic user agents and generic IP addresses as well. You may be able to approximate who is using Apple Mail’s privacy feature but it will be just that, an approximation.

What % of Twilio SendGrid volume is opened with the Apple Mail app?

Twilio SendGrid data shows 7.7% of all opens occur in the Apple Mail application, while Litmus shows a 37% email client market share for Apple iPhones and a 10% market share for Apple Mail. This percentage varied even more in our conversations with other email service providers—some believe their Apple Mail volume to be as high as 30%. 

User agent tracking is very challenging to track which is likely why we are seeing such a wide range of data. Plus, every business will have a slightly different percentage of recipients using Apple Mail. It will be important to keep an eye on open rates and see how they change in the coming months to get a better idea of how many Apple Mail users you have on your contact list.    

How do we manage engagement-based sunsetting for Apple Mail users? 

We believe the best solution will be to use click tracking instead of open tracking. Click events are less common than open events so it stands to reason that using click tracking alone will result in the removal of more subscribers from your list due to non-engagement than when using open tracking. 

For more information on sunsetting, visit the following blog posts: Building Your Business Case for an Email Sunset Policy and How to Create and Execute an Email Sunsetting Strategy.

What happens if other mailbox providers or operating systems adopt a similar approach?

Senders and email service providers like Twilio SendGrid will have to adjust their approach for tracking engagement. Using opens to track engagement with your email channel has been the industry standard for decades. 

If senders lose a significant portion of engagement data, we will have to come up with new ideas and new ways of determining which recipients actually want our digital communications. For example, we could:

  • Ignore open data and rely entirely on click data 
  • Move away from direct engagement data entirely
  • Send regular reconfirmation/re-engagement campaigns
  • Use alternative channels (SMS, push notifications, video, voice, in-app, etc.) to confirm the desire to continue to receive email communications

An evolving industry

As the email industry evolves, Twilio SendGrid will provide best practices and suggestions on how to adapt to any changes in privacy or regulation. We will update this list of FAQs as more answers become available, and expect more articles on how businesses can prepare for this change. 

In the meantime, if you would like help addressing the Mail Privacy Protection, delivery issues, or general email performance for your brand, reach out to our team of email experts.  


SendGrid Email Deliverability Blog – SendGrid

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