Navigating Apple's Latest Privacy Update: Implications for Measurement and Tracking

June 13, 2023

Jordan Cardonick VP – Experience Analytics

Apple has continued their path to privacy (and measurement solutions) by announcing new features in iOS17 and macOS Sonoma to further limit user level tracking. Link Tracking Protection, which will be deployed on SMS, E-mail and Safari Private Browsing, will look to automatically detect user-identifiable parameters in the URL string and remove them. This new update is planned for a Mid-September 2023 release, with the beta coming in July. While Apple has previously leveraged ITP to hinder 3rd-party cookie capture, this new functionality will truncate parameters in the URL string itself that are usually used by Web Analytics packages (Adobe Analytics, Google Analytics, Mix Panel, etc.) and other on-site / in-app tools.  

On a positive note, this does not mean ALL URL parameters are going to be cut, but just the ones that Apple deems as user identifiable. The issue is, how that is defined, is likely to be a bit of an on-going evolution and with not a lot of transparency around it. Here at Blend360 we expect many of the traditional UTM and CID parameters to be fine, but something like the GCLID that is a very critical data orchestration metric could be cut making it more difficult to leverage things like the Online/Offline API.  

To reiterate, the application of this is maintained to three core areas, so Paid Search and other traditional digital channels are likely to only be impacted minimally to those users in private browsing, but E-mail and SMS campaign tracking, which is highly user-driven and typically personalized upon click-event could see some significant impact given the proliferation of Apple mobile devices (~53% as of Q1 2023). All that said, Apple is likely to continue going down this path for non-Private browsing.  

Now Apple does have a solution to support this, their own Data Safe Haven / Measurement solution called Private Click Measurement, but to date has had very little momentum to apply it even with ITP in the mix. This latest update (along with the potential to roll out further) may tip the scales in the other direction.  

Overall, though, the future of user-level measurement / tracking has been moving in this direction for quite a while and we expect it to continue this path. So here are a few things to consider.  

  1. Continue to build up your 1P-Consented database. Even in a world where tracking limitations may hinder directly connecting the dots for the full user journey, closed-loop measurement is still feasible to understand the impact of your marketing efforts.  
  1. Plan ahead, review your MarTech / AdTech to understand dependencies on URL parameters, and develop a monitoring plan to understand impact as the updates roll out.  
  1. Continue to develop MMM and Aggregated Attribution solutions to be more detailed in understanding the different elements of your marketing campaigns.    
  1. Become more familiar with Data Safe Havens if you haven’t already. These platforms will play some role in your overall enterprise measurement solutions, so make sure you are determining what their various benefits are and think about how they can apply.  

At Blend360, we understand the evolving landscape of measurement and the challenges it presents. Our team is here to provide expert assistance across all areas of measurement, empowering you to make informed decisions despite the limitations imposed by privacy changes. Count on us as your trusted partner in navigating these challenges and optimizing the impact of your marketing efforts.

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