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Apple’s New Email Privacy Protections and Creators

  • Post category:Commentary

Recently I, like many others, was excited to hear about Apple’s new privacy features for iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8. And I don’t even use Apple products.

ConvertKit’s CEO Responds to the Announcement

Not everyone is sharing that enthusiasm, however. Namely, email marketers. The other day ConvertKit CEO Nathan Barry and the company’s deliverability lead Alyssa Dulin wrote a blog post together titled “How Apple’s email privacy protection hurts creators.” While they too in general laud the steps Apple is taking to strengthen privacy for its consumers, in this post they bear grievances over Mail Privacy Protection, which they claim “actively hurts creators.” Here’s how it’s described in the Apple Newsroom release:

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.

from Apple Newsroom website

In particular, they don’t like the idea of blocking all email open tracking because of how it makes it difficult for online creators to determine which subscribers on their mailing lists are engaged and which ones aren’t. Indeed, removing the addresses of totally inactive subscribers is good, sensible practice. And of course, spam traps, as they mention, are also a legitimate concern. They argue for a means to manage these two issues in the wake of the new OS updates, to replace the tracking tools email marketers and online creators have gotten a bit too used to using.

I as a consumer honestly couldn’t care less about their dilemma. And as a creator, it doesn’t hurt me in the slightest.

Why I Couldn’t Care Less

For one, I don’t subscribe to any mailing lists. Most online creators don’t really offer anything that’s deserving of my attention in my inbox. If I’m interested in somebody’s work, I will go directly to the source. I’m sure many others are the same way. Also, in the event I do subscribe to someone’s email list, I hope he or she will trust me enough to unsubscribe on my own if I lose interest, without the need to determine whether or not I’m engaged to his or her liking. I suspect some do. But if creators can’t get by without intruding on consumers, that’s their problem.

I as a creator am more than willing to accept the reality that people value their privacy over giving me the privilege of marketing to them. Yes, it’s a privilege, not a right.

I don’t care about building up an email list for the foreseeable future, if ever, so I don’t have one. While it’s possible to use email marketing tools without embedding tracking pixels into emails, I wouldn’t feel good about paying money to companies that encourage the opposite (especially by default). It’s better just to do work that’s worth talking about and paying for, without intruding on anyone. Maybe that will work against me in the long run, but I have faith that it won’t.

Moving Forward

If you’re a consumer, chances are you’ve already cast your vote in favor of privacy, and have nothing else to worry about. If you’re a creator, respect those consumers. And if you’re the CEO of an email marketing company, get over it.

*Interestingly enough, this sentence is omitted from the portion that Barry and Dunlin refer to in quotes. It comes as no surprise, since they’re guilty of it.