How Apple With 'Mail Protection Privacy' Can Help Stop Email Tracking Pixels

Apple Mail Protection Privacy

While most online communications have shifted to social media networks and messaging platforms, a lot of people still use emails.

If compared to its younger counterparts, emails can be considered a relic from the past. But still, emails do have a number of advantages. And among the advantages, is the ability for marketers to track their recipients, using a technique called the pixel tracking.

It's through this tracking that senders of the emails can know when the recipients open the emails, how many times the recipients open the messages, the time of day the messages are opened, how long the messages are opened, and even the location the recipients through their IP addresses.

Another way of saying this, the act of reading email can send an amount of data back to the sender, even if the recipient never responded.

It's through pixel tracking, which embeds a tiny 1 x 1 pixel image that can quietly track people, even when recipients never respond to the emails.

And Apple is having a way to stop this once and for all, at least on its products.

Among the many Apple has announced during its WWDC 2021, Apple announced 'Mail Privacy Protection', which can limit the amount of data that senders of emails can collect.

"In the Mail app, 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."

Apple introduces the feature because it sees email tracking as a possible threat to the rise of journalism.

It should be noted that users could previously block email trackers by blocking the loading of remote content in the Mail app on both iOS and macOS. But this Mail Protection Privacy takes this to another level.

This is because users can still view all email content as normal, while Mail Privacy Protection works in the background with no visual compromises.

It's also worth noting that Mail Tracking Privacy pairs well with iCloud Private Relay, a feature that's included in ‌iCloud‌+, Apple's paid ‌iCloud‌ plans. With it, all traffic that leaves users' device is routed through two separate internet relays so advertisers can't see their IP address or location, nor can they link their browsing history to this information to build a profile about them.

Apple Private Relay

In detail:

"Emails that you receive may include hidden pixels that allow the email's sender to learn information about you. As soon as you open an email, information about your Mail activity can be collected by the sender without transparency and an ability to control what information is shared. Email senders can learn when and how many times you opened their email, whether you forwarded the email, your Internet Protocol (IP) address, and other data that can be used to build a profile of your behavior and learn your location."

"If you choose to turn it on, Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders, including Apple, from learning information about your Mail activity. When you receive an email in the Mail app, rather than downloading remote content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection downloads remote content in the background by default - regardless of how you do or don't engage with the email. Apple does not learn any information about the content."

"In addition, all remote content downloaded by Mail is routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the sender from learning your IP address. Rather than share your IP address, which can allow the email sender to learn your location, Apple's proxy network will randomly assign an IP address that corresponds only to the region your device is in. As a result, email senders will only receive generic information rather than information about your behavior. Apple does not access your IP address."

Mail Privacy Protection should help preserve users' privacy.

But for marketers, especially those who send ad-based newsletters, Mail Privacy Protection is likely to spur publishers to find other ways to understand their audiences.

While Apple is known for its well-crafted marketing message, delivered with the capacity and the promise, this Mail Privacy Protection is just another example of how Apple as a giant tech company, has the ability to reshape markets to its liking.

This feature is set to be launched through iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey.