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Preparing for Apple’s iOS 17 & Link Tracking Protection

4 MINUTE READ | September 11, 2023

Preparing for Apple’s iOS 17 & Link Tracking Protection

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Abby Long

Abby is PMG’s senior managing editor, where she leads the company’s editorial program and manages the PMG Blog and Insights Hub. As a writer, editor, and marketing communications strategist with nearly a decade of experience, Abby's work in showcasing PMG’s unique expertise through POVs, research reports, and thought leadership regularly informs business strategy and media investments for some of the most iconic brands in the world. Named among the AAF Dallas 32 Under 32, her expertise in advertising, media strategy, and consumer trends has been featured in Ad Age, Business Insider, and Digiday.

The upcoming release of Apple’s iOS 17 comes with new features geared towards improving consumer privacy and reducing fingerprinting, impacting an advertiser’s ability to better understand user behavior and more accurately measure campaign performance. These updates include major enhancements across app privacy and web browsing, including Link Tracking Protection (LTP). 

Apple’s new Link Tracking Protection will automatically remove URL tracking parameters (click IDs) from links shared and accessed via Apple Mail, Messages, or Safari’s Privacy Browsing mode. LTP is the latest move to improve data privacy across Apple devices, building off prior enhancements introduced with iOS 14.5 via App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and iOS 15, significantly affecting email marketing performance. 

While the full implications of iOS 17’s Link Tracking Protection remain to be seen, early tests with its beta version confirmed that LTP was not active by default and only removed specific click IDs. According to Admetrics, LTP automatically removed the Facebook click ID, Google’s, and Hubspot’s. However, Mailchimp’s, Klaviyo’s, and TikTok’s click IDs were not removed. Similarly, LTP does not currently strip UTM codes from URLs, as these small clips of text (UTMs) measure holistic campaign attribution yet don’t identify individual users.

Ad Age reported that Apple is committed to helping advertisers with this change by expanding availability for its Private Click Measurement Solution, Apple’s privacy-focused alternative for tracking ad attribution. This solution provides a “partial attribution report” with its extension to Safari Private Browsing mode, offering more effective web-to-app measurement. 

The degree to which advertisers are impacted by Link Tracking Protection and Apple’s other iOS 17 privacy updates relies on various factors, including a brand’s email marketing, text messaging, and measurement tools and solutions. In short, the more your advertising relies on third-party data signals and user-level tracking, the greater the effect iOS 17 will have. Advertisers, ad platforms, and measurement tools can expect new limitations in measuring conversions if they utilize click IDs to track user behavior. 

While adoption of iOS 17 and Link Tracking Protection will take time—widespread adoption isn’t expected until Q1 2024, in line with historical iOS adoption trends—brands will begin to see an impact on conversion measurement as soon as iOS 17 is released this fall. For brands that have embraced a privacy-first approach, the effect of LTP is expected to be quite limited. 

To prepare for iOS 17 and Link Tracking Protection, PMG recommends that advertisers: 

  • Review existing conversion tracking processes to better understand how the loss of click ID tracking across Apple devices will likely impact your current measurement framework. 

  • Make a note of when iOS 17 officially releases this fall, keeping a close eye on conversion measurement trends to determine the degree of impact.

  • Continue to refine your measurement framework, adopting privacy-first attribution solutions to best prepare for continued signal loss and the future of privacy-first advertising.

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