Apple has announced new privacy protections in iOS 15 and its other operating systems (macOS 15, iPadOS 15, watchOS 8). These aren’t the type of product enhancements that are designed to get headlines as much as make products better. These are significant changes to the operating systems that will profoundly change the way marketers connect and interact with their audience.
Privacy advocates are rejoicing, as they should, but what about businesses? How will these operating system enhancements affect them? Marketers need to start thinking about how their tactics will have to evolve. Those that don’t put some time and effort into updating their strategy to align with these new data privacy protections will find themselves with their access to prospective customers essentially cut off—or at least drastically reduced.
Below we explain what the new protections are and how they will affect marketers.
4 Key Elements of Apple’s New Data Privacy Features and Why Marketers Must Take Note
Apple iOS 15 will include changes in four main areas that marketers must educate themselves on.
- Mail Privacy Protection. iOS 15 has functionality in the Mail app that prevents senders from including unseen pixels in messages that enable them to gather information about users—specifically whether they have opened an email. Senders also can no longer detect a recipient’s IP address and use it to determine their location or track their online activity. Intelligent Tracking Prevention has been in place for years, but this enhancement takes that protection to a new level.
Marketers learning of this change may experience a visceral shudder. It means that key metrics like open rate, which are almost universally used to measure the effectiveness of marketing outreach, will no longer be available. Does that mean businesses will have to abandon this type of campaign? Surely not. But it does mean they’ll have to rethink their approach.
- On-device processing of Siri requests. With the release of iOS 15, many types of requests to Siri—things like controlling music, setting alarms and timers, changing settings, etc.—will be performed on the device rather than on a server. This update will address a major area of concern for privacy advocates, which is the recording by others of their audio interactions with Siri.
For marketers, this means another source of information about users will be eliminated. If marketers were working to connect with their audience in a fairly well-lit “room” previously, the lights will be getting a little dimmer with this update.
- App Privacy Report. Most people grant access to various information and functions on their Apple devices to a variety of apps as a requirement for using those apps effectively. For example, we let apps track our location, see our photos, access information on our contacts, and use our camera and microphone. But what do you know about how often those apps exercise their access rights? For most of us, the answer would be something like, “I know very little, if anything, about how apps interact with my device.”
The App Privacy Report in iOS 15 changes that. It shows you how often each app has used the permissions you’ve granted it. If the frequency or pattern of activity looks unusual, you can go into Settings to investigate and make changes to access rights as needed.
For businesses that are leveraging access to user information in their marketing campaigns, this report exposes their practices. Will that be a problem? It depends on how aggressively marketers are using that information and whether a user feels “violated” by those intrusions that they were previously unaware of. But the availability of the report likely will result in a significant percentage of users making changes to their privacy settings.
- iCloud+. This iCloud enhancement has new features like iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and more support for HomeKit Secure Video with no additional fees. Private Relay increases a user’s privacy when they’re browsing the web using Safari. It encrypts all traffic from the device being used so that nobody—including the person’s network provider or Apple itself—can read the information. Data requests are also sent to two distinct internet “relays.” One assigns an anonymous IP address to the activity so that the general region can be known but not the actual location. The other decrypts the address of the website the user wants to visit and sends them there.
Hide My Email enables users to provide random email addresses to anyone asking for that information, with the feature then forwarding correspondence to the user, effectively keeping their actual email address unknown. iCloud+ also enhances existing support for HomeKit Secure Video. It lets users connect more cameras and also provides end-to-end encryption for stored video. Plus, security camera footage won’t count against their storage capacity.
Here again, marketers will find themselves more “in the dark” about user information and user behavior. For example, if a user decides they no longer want to hear from a business or if the business gets hacked and customer email information is compromised, the user can simply shut down the email address created for these interactions and not have to rely on the business deleting that information from their database. The connection is severed cleanly and immediately, with the company having no easy way to track the user and, perhaps, attempt to re-establish a relationship later.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
Does iOS 15 represent nothing but “gloom and doom” for businesses? No, there’s an upside. As many industry observers have noted, when viewed in the right way, the new privacy protections will be an incentive for marketers to reimagine their relationships with their audience and the marketing strategies they use to establish, measure, and maintain those relationships. And, companies that make the effort will set themselves apart from those that don’t.
Marketers today talk about wanting to engage in more meaningful ways with their audiences and to do so with greater transparency. The launch of Apple’s iOS 15 will create the opportunity (and, yes, the obligation) to do exactly that. Plus, similar data privacy enhancements are surely on the way from Microsoft, Google, and other tech giants. Consequently, any improvements made in how a business markets to prospective customers who use Apple devices can be used with other audiences, as well.
In a future post, we’ll provide insights on how marketers can adapt to iOS 15 and continue to engage effectively and profitably with their customers and prospects.