What the iOS 15 update means for advertising, marketers, and analysts
Apple’s latest privacy announcements for iPadOS 15 and iOS 15 are happening just ahead of the holiday season. Learn what common KPIs will be affected and what these changes mean for marketers and analysts.

Apple has announced a 9/20/21 release date for iPadOS 15 and iOS 15.

iOS 15 will affect advertising, targeting, and reporting in several ways via the introduction of Mail Tracking Protection and IP Address Obfuscation. Further changes may manifest from iCloud+ subscribers in the form of “Hide My Email” and Private Relay.   

Since Apple users typically upgrade their devices quickly, it’s very possible that this update will have significant adoption before Black Friday. This post can help readers be prepared for these changes to common analytics tracking KPIs.

Mail Tracking Protection

Apple's iOS 15 update could cause extreme changes to email marketing and optimization program KPIs

Mail Tracking Protection is enabled by default with the launch of iOS15. If an Apple Mail client chooses to use this exclusive feature, it will enable several customer protections that change analytics tracking. For example, if this feature is enabled, you, as a marketer or analyst will experience the following: 

1. You will no longer be able to determine if the email was opened.

  • You will no longer be able to determine the time of open
  • You will no longer be able to determine location of open (from the IP Address)
  • You will not get access to device information from the open.

2. You will still be able to track email click-through events.

According to Litmus, Apple Mail accounts for nearly 50% of the 3 million observed email opens from January to March 2021, so the odds are this will be very visible in the reporting once adoption takes hold.

You can read our blog post about this topic here.

Per our scale of change, we think Mail Tracking Protection will cause extreme changes to how email marketing and optimization programs run and which KPIs they can use going forward.

IP Address Obscurification

Apple's iOS 15 updates for IP address obfuscation and private relay could cause moderate impact to geo-targeting and geo-location reporting and services

Apple’s Webkit rendering engine (which powers all browsers on iOS) will be getting an upgrade.  With this enhancement, a tracker list powered by DuckDuckGo gets to determine the path of a network call to a third-party domain. That means that if DuckDuckGo classifies a network call as having tracking capability, the request will be routed through two server hops before reaching the remote system. 

From a business perspective, this means that marketing tags will likely not get the ‘real’ IP Address, which may impact geo-fencing and geo-targeting capabilities and related reporting.  The system is designed to keep the exit endpoint ‘near’ the real endpoint, so this is likely to manifest as inflated visitor traffic numbers in city hubs and deflated numbers in rural areas. The rendering engine turns the system on by default, so it’s automatically enabled for the user regardless of the browser they use.

Per our scale of change, we think IP Address Obfuscation could cause moderate impact to geo-targeting and geo-location reporting and services. The exit node should still be 'near' the real user location but may have a stronger impact if city-by-city targeting is at play.

Hide My Email

Hide My Email  is a iCloud+ subscription benefit that gives users the ability to create an email alias on demand to avoid giving a service their ‘true’ email address. For the marketer or analyst, these addresses are deliverable, however, Hide My Email may cause email file fragmentation, or it may interfere with the ability to link users across services/domains via their email address.

Users will have the ability to delete these email addresses forwards, which means that a user can effectively unsubscribe from your email list without telling you. As a result, you might think your email file is larger than it actually is or that it has more deliverable addresses than it actually does.

Marketers will be able to determine if Hide My Email is used because such addresses will be on the privaterelay.appleid.com domain.

Dr Doom Scale 01

Per our scale of change, we think Hide My Email could cause minor disruption. The ability to create fake email addresses already existed, so this change doesn't really bring anything new into play.

Private Relay

Apple's iOS 15 updates for IP address obfuscation and private relay could cause moderate impact to geo-targeting and geo-location reporting and services

Private Relay is a iCloud+ subscription benefit that enables IP Address Obfuscation (see above) for all network calls (not just known trackers). This means that the website itself will not know the true IP address of the end user.

Users can choose from maintaining their general location (causing the endpoint to be a nearby city) or use the country and timezone (and appear in a random location in that space). This may influence any analysis that uses the IP Address for identification purposes such as geo-fencing, automatic geolocation, or related reporting.

You can find more information on Private Relay and how to prepare your network by reviewing Apple’s documentation.

Per our scale of change, we think Private Relay could result in moderate changes. Various network teams may need to take action to ensure the network is compatible with Private Relay. Consider that geo-related reporting, targeting, and services reporting might be disrupted for analysts depending on the precise settings a user selects when enabling the service.

These changes will first roll out to iPhones and iPads, but we’ll see these changes also appear on macOS (we expect in October). If you have questions about how this affects your implementation specifically, we’d be happy to arrange a time to chat about it. We’ll likely be able to suggest alternative analysis methods. 

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