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The impact of iOS 17 link tracking protection

A woman uses her Apple iPhone
Sep 12, 2023

With the pending release of iOS 17 this fall, there has been plenty of speculation about the impact of Link Tracking Protection (LTP). As those of us in the email world remember all too well, Apple’s introduction of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) nearly two years ago had a profound effect on open rates, rendering them far less useful and reliable as a KPI. Now the big question on everyone’s minds is what impact will LTP have on our ability to track click parameters.

What is Link Tracking Protection?

First, let’s take a minute to explain what LTP is and what it’s intended to do. According to Apple, LTP will remove what it calls “extra information” added to URLs in mail, messages, and Safari (in Privacy Mode) designed to track users across other websites. The links will still work, preserving the user experience, but the additional trackers won’t. This, according to Apple, is all in the name of its ongoing “privacy and security innovations.” 

This raises the obvious question: 

What extra information will be removed?

Testing of the beta version of Safari 17, which is set to include the same LTP functionality as messages and mail, shows that parameters such as UTMs will not be stripped, presumably because UTMs don’t allow for tracking of individual users across multiple websites. This is opposed to parameters used by Facebook and Google that specifically track clicks and users, for the purpose of creating attribution and data modeling, which will be removed.

AdTech expert Wojtek Andrzejczak’s testing uncovered a lengthy list of parameters that will and won’t be removed by LTP:

Tracking parameters that are removed:

  • gclid – Google AdWords / Google Analytics
  • dclid – Google Display Network
  • fbclid – Facebook Advertising
  • twclkd – Twitter Advertising
  • msclkid – Microsoft Advertising
  • mc_eid – Mailchimp
  • igshid – Instagram

Steve Atkins of Word to the Wise noted that, in his tests, other tracking parameters removed included all of those under the heading Tracking Query Parameter Tests” at privacytests.org.

Tracking parameters that are not removed:

  • UTMs – Urchin Tracking Module
  • pk_* – Piwik
  • piwik_* – Piwik
  • mtm_* – Matmo
  • hsa_* – Hubspot
  • epik – Pinterest
  • ef_id – Adobe Advertising Cloud
  • s_kwicid – Adobe Analytics
  • dm_i – dotdigital
  • _branch_match_id – Branch
  • mkevt – eBay
  • campid – eBuy
  • si – Spotify
  • _bta_tid – Bronto
  • _bta_c – Bronto

What do marketers need to know about Link Tracking Protection?

While this is still subject to change prior to this month’s iOS 17 final release, marketers should know that the LTP isn’t as stringent as some had feared, and that many tracking parameters will remain preserved. But those using strings in the “to be removed” list need to know that they will lose access to some data for users of Apple Mail, Messages and Safari Privacy Mode.

About the Author
Dave Ragals

Dave Ragals

MessageGears’ VP of Customer Success, Dave has 20+ years of extensive experience in SaaS and services-enabled technology, concentrating in the fields of marketing and advertising technologies. He has a proven ability to design, deliver, maintain & support innovative, integrated business solutions. He is well-versed in leading, influencing, and motivating both direct reports and other team members.