Every innovation that Apple brings on to the table, is aimed at granting users with genuine control over that device in their hands. One of the strongholds of Apple as a brand, remains the creation of technology that connects with the users more than anything else. Users feel their needs being transformed and reflected into beautiful solutions on the screen. Apple has thus invested countless resources into providing users with better control over their data, and a proper hold on the apps and services monitoring it.
New and updated privacy features have been added to iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS, to help users manage and control access to their data, in better ways. We intend to talk about one such feature that reflects Apple's leadership in privacy protection in the field of IT. The feature of Mail Privacy Protection.
Why your e-mails might not be private
Simply put, the e-mails that enter your devices, might allow its senders to collect your information, once opened. It’s usually achieved by including invisible pixels in the e-mail, that revert back to its sender when viewed. These pixels, aka Tracking Pixels, can be extremely tiny and hidden either in the white space of the email, or in some media file attached to the body of the mail. These undetectable little things, are capable of quite many not-so-little things. They can capture a wide array of your data like the OS of your device, its screen resolution, the time that the mail was viewed at, and more.
Such features are typically deployed by marketing companies to keep track on the viewership of their mails, towards creating personalized content for digital marketing. They can learn when and how many times you’ve opened their mail, or whom you may have forwarded it to, in order to create a profile of your online behavior. Whether or not it’s ethical to do so, considering it’s achieved using undetectable resources, and without the consent of users, there’s space enough for certain online parties to put it to ill-purposes. And this premise is reason enough for an updated set of privacy features, that at-least build an option to restrict this un-called for tracking.
Apple says No.
This is what brings us to the option of Mail privacy protection. Simply put, it restricts the above-mentioned feature by masking your IP address and loading all content in the e-mail privately in the background. They’re routed through multiple proxy servers, preventing the senders from locating your IP address. Instead of putting your IP address to work, Apple assigns you with a random one of your region. Thus, since no connection is made between your online activity and its location, no information is reverted to the senders.
Another thing to keep in mind of course, is that this feature prevents even Apple, from accessing or managing the information on your mail activity. Regardless of what you choose to do or not do with the mail and its contents, Apple is made to turn a blind eye to them all.
For a number of years, Apple has dealt with Intelligent tracking prevention to use on-device machine learning, and help protect user-data from unwanted tracking. With the integration of Mail privacy protection into iOS 15, Intelligent tracking prevention has been made more efficient and effective than ever. Trackers can no longer utilize the user’s IP address to access their activity, or create an online profile on them.
Now for you to say No.
So how to enable this feature? By default, the option of Mail privacy protection remains disabled in your device. Let’s just say it's better if you put it to proper use, after holding full knowledge of what goes on behind the screen and why.
Enabling Mail Privacy Protection on iOS 15:
Step 1: Open Settings on your iPhone.
Step 2: From the list, select Messages, and then go to Privacy Protection.
Step 3: Now, select Protect Mail Activity to enable or disable the feature. (You’ll find options to decide whether you want to hide your IP address, your Remote content, or both. Depending on the reason why you’re here, go for the most appropriate one.)
Also, note that this updated Privacy feature is usable only on the iOS 15 Mail App. It will not be accessible in third-party e-mail apps whether or not the option's enabled on your device.
The implications of shutting your e-window
The process of enabling this feature on your iPhone is simple enough. But what would this mean for the companies employing it? The facets of digital marketing and personalization that depend on e-mail open-related context (time, rate and place), will most obviously take a hit. Only the extent will vary. But the thing for emerging companies to keep in mind, is that when it comes to digital marketing, e-mail open rates aren’t everything. Not by a long shot. There are countless ways of staying connected with your customers and converting their behavior into better services for tomorrow. Ways that do not hinder user-privacy and consent.
Moreover, Apple has merely handed over the control and choice to its users. It’s not a feature that’s shoved down their devices irrespective of what they’d want. If the users are willing to share their personal information in return of personalization, they’re more than free to do so. In fact, here’s some perspective on this: As per Accenture, over 83% of consumers expected a more personalized attention from marketers, and were willing to share their e-mail behavior for the same. That’s quite telling.
As Apple’s Senior Vice President of software engineering stated, “Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with.” It’s thus about providing users with the key. It’s not about disabling companies from tracking your e-behavior, but about allowing you to refuse it if you wanted to.