Apple’s ‘Mail Privacy Protection’ kills email ad tracking pixels

Apple is putting an end to invisible email ad tracking pixels with a feature called “Mail Privacy Protection,” further extending the company’s battle with the advertising tracking industry, a market dominated by Google, Facebook, and Amazon.

Apple kills email tracking pixels with Mail Privacy Protection
Apple kills email tracking pixels with Mail Privacy Protection

Alex Webb for Bloomberg Businessweek:

Most newsletters or marketing emails that you receive include images that aren’t embedded in the message, but are instead hosted remotely on another server. Opening the email pings the server to download the graphic. In doing so, it also tells the sender the time you opened the message, your approximate location, and the device you’re using, for instance. Brands and publishers use that data to gauge the effectiveness of their content.

Apple is putting an end to that with a feature it’s calling “Mail Privacy Protection.” The tool will automatically download the data hosted remotely, whether or not you open the email, while shielding your location. The sender will therefore be told that the email has been opened, even if it hasn’t, and receive no further intel about the recipient.

The feature also positions Apple as a gatekeeper to your inbox. That’s meaningful: About half of all emails are opened on Apple apps, estimates Cambridge, Mass.-based analytics firm Litmus Software Inc. Using the feature will hurt the advertisers and newsletter publishers that rely on such data.

Apple’s earlier steps to stop advertisers from tracking web browsing and app usage have proved effective: Ad spending on iOS increased just 10% in the 10 weeks from March 22, while it jumped 21% on Google’s Android, according to data from marketing firm Warc. That also positions Apple more powerfully as the gateway to advertise on iPhones, should it so choose.

MacDailyNews Note: Apple explains how Mail Privacy Protection can help stop email tracking pixels:

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.

1 Comment

  1. Thank goodness!! I hate that tracking and snooping crap. As if the federal government isn’t enough, these profiteers spy on us every time we make a move. Tim Cook may have his detractors in other areas but this one receives two thumbs up from me and a big thank you.

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