Peter Lu / 2.02.2023Home / Email Security

Mail Privacy Protection—what is it, and should you enable it?

If you haven’t enabled Mail Privacy Protection on Apple Mail, doing so can be a good idea. Learn how it helps and what other security steps you should take.
Apple Mail privacy protection setup.
Apple Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is one of the tech giant’s many efforts to protect users’ data. It’s a simple but effective feature of Apple’s native email client, helping you prevent curious senders from tracking your email activity.In this guide, you’ll learn everything about iOS Mail Privacy Protection and the level of security it offers. We’ll show you:
  • What MPP is and how it works
  • Why you should enable it
  • What additional steps you can take to ensure email privacy and confidentiality
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What is Mail Privacy Protection?

MPP rolled out in September 2021 with the release of iOS 15. It was a significant update to the mail app because it gave users an option to prevent third parties from tracking them.The feature hides your IP address to prevent senders from connecting it to any specific action, like opening the email or clicking on the links within it. It also lets Apple’s servers preload and download remote email content before it reaches you.This privacy measure supports your fundamental right to consume content without others eavesdropping on your activity. To understand how this happens, you should know how your email behavior is tracked in the first place.

What does Mail Privacy Protection mean for senders and recipients?

Many people don’t realize this, but online actions we don’t think much about are a goldmine of personal information for interested parties. The most common use of such data is email marketing and advertising.When you get an email like a newsletter or promotional piece, there’s a high chance it contains the so-called spy pixel in the form of an imperceptible image. It tracks your activity from the moment you open the email and feeds the information back to the sender.They know if and when you opened the email and whether you followed any links to specific pages. This is done by matching your IP address to the URL, which gives the sender insight into your interests and intentions.This practice is mostly innocuous as the gathered data isn’t directly used against you, but it’s still an invasion of your private inbox. Besides, email marketers rarely gather this information directly—they use a dedicated service, which means your data is visible to multiple parties.MPP removes this tracking mechanism by using a proxy server to clean up the email and send you a version without the spy pixel. Here’s how it works:
  1. An email reaches Apple’s servers
  2. The proxy downloads remote content (including the pixel)
  3. You open the email and trigger a download request from Apple’s server, not the sender’s email service provider. As the tracking pixel was downloaded on the proxy, it can’t be connected to your IP address

Should you turn on Mail Privacy Protection?

With all of the above in mind, the answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” It’s a quick and easy way to stop your private information from being shared with advertisers, data analytics providers, and other third parties.It’s worth mentioning that not all uses of your data are as innocent as email marketing. Hackers can also use spy pixels to refine phishing attacks and send users an email variation with the highest chance of being opened. A tracking pixel monitors the target’s behavior, hinting at the email content that would compel them to follow a spoof link.While MPP can’t offer absolute protection from elaborate attacks, it impedes them by securing your account and emails.

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How to protect mail activity with MPP

Enabling MPP on your iPhone is easy and only takes a few steps:
  1. Go to Settings
  2. Scroll down to Mail
  3. Tap Privacy and toggle Protect Mail Activity
You can also turn on MPP on a Mac with macOS Monterey or later. Here’s how:
  1. Open the Email app
  2. Click on Mail > Settings
  3. Under Privacy, check the box next to Protect Mail Activity
The Hide IP Address box will automatically be checked. If you uncheck Protect Mail Activity, you can choose to manually hide your IP address and/or block all remote content. When the latter option is selected, your emails will show a banner stating whether they contain remote content, so you can choose if you want to download it.

The limitations of Apple email privacy protection

PMM is a useful feature, but it only offers modest privacy from the perspective of incoming mail. It doesn’t protect sensitive data or files you send via email, so you need additional measures to safeguard your online correspondence.Apple offers decent safety features, but they’re not impregnable. While all iCloud data is end-to-end encrypted (E2EE), the mail client doesn’t offer this level of protection by default. There’s an option to install an S/MIME certificate, but doing so might be complex for an average user.Strong E2EE is crucial for staying safe online, as it scrambles your email’s content from the moment it leaves your device. Only the recipient with the decryption key can see the email, so it’s unreadable to everyone else—including the email service provider.Most Big Tech email service providers don’t offer E2EE in the full sense of the word. A typical solution supports one of two encryption types:
Encryption typeProtection level
Encryption at restProtects your data while it’s sitting on the server
Encryption in transitSecures emails while they’re traveling to the recipient
The second option is more common, and some providers advertise this type of encryption as an E2EE solution. Beware of such marketing, as the email service creates and stores the decryption keys on their servers, offering less protection than promised.The right E2EE email service must ensure decryption keys are created by the user and safely stored on their device. Skiff is among the handful of providers offering such control over your data.

Enjoy unparalleled security and privacy with Skiff Mail

Skiff Mail is a privacy-first encrypted email service using advanced E2EE to ensure your emails are safe from prying eyes. It uses two separate keys to safeguard your emails from unauthorized access:
  • Public key—Used for encrypting emails and distributed among users
  • Private key—Necessary for decrypting the message and safely stored on the user’s device
Skiff doesn’t create or store keys, so you have full ownership of your data. Not even the platform’s team can see your correspondence or personal details, ensuring full confidentiality.You don’t need any technical knowledge to enjoy privacy with Skiff, as the encryption is automatic from the moment you sign in. The powerful back-end is behind a clean, intuitive user interface that lets users of all skill levels navigate the platform easily.Besides advanced end-to-end cryptography, Skiff supports various security measures to fortify your online identity. Using Secure Remote Password, the platform allows for zero-knowledge login, which means your login credentials aren’t stored on Skiff’s servers. You can also sign up without leaving any personal details and enjoy full anonymity.Skiff Mail is open source and fully transparent about the codebase. Browse the whitepaper to learn more about its robust security measures, and join the Skiff Discord channel to stay on top of all relevant updates.The platform combines various privacy features with crypto integrations. You can log in with several major wallets to communicate anonymously:

Beyond email—explore Skiff’s privacy-first collaboration tools

If you want to streamline your workflow without ever worrying about security, Skiff offers three E2EE products besides the email client:
  1. Skiff Pages
  2. Skiff Drive
  3. Skiff Calendar
The following table explains how each platform supports your productivity and security:
Skiff PagesA more secure alternative to popular productivity tools like Dropbox Paper or Google Docs. Skiff Pages lets you create unlimited docs and share them among users in an end-to-end encrypted environment to keep your projects safe from unauthorized access
Skiff DriveA safe storage solution supporting all types of files. Skiff offers optional InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) integration to provide a private, decentralized space for all your sensitive information
Skiff CalendarFocused on customization, Skiff Calendar lets you add or remove features to tailor the platform to your needs and workflow. You can schedule and manage events privately while keeping their details restricted to relevant parties and attendees
Besides the web apps, you can use Skiff’s products with your iPhone or Mac. They’re also available to Android users, so visit the download page for compatibility details.

Sign up for Skiff at no cost

Skiff’s robust free plan doesn’t have a time limit, so you can take advantage of its many features with no strings attached. Here’s how to get started:
  1. Visit the signup page
  2. Choose your account name and password
  3. Start using Skiff Mail and other products
Besides the access to Skiff’s productivity suite, you’ll get:
  • 10 GB of storage
  • Lightning-fast and thorough email and text search
  • 4 aliases for managing multiple accounts with ease
If you want more aliases, storage, or features like custom domains, you can choose between three paid plans:
  • Essential—from $3/month
  • Pro—from $8/month
  • Business—from $12/month

Ensure safety beyond emailing

No email encryption can protect your privacy if your device is compromised by malware. Apple devices have historically shown more resilience to attacks than most competitors, but you should still follow the right security practices to stay safe.If you haven’t already, turn on two-factor authentication (2FA) for your Apple ID. It’s the single most important account on any Apple product, as unauthorized access makes all your other data vulnerable.You can turn on 2FA by following these steps:
  1. Open Settings
  2. Tap on your name at the top of the menu
  3. Go to Passwords & Security, and then tap Turn On Two-Factor Authentication
2FA reduces the risk of your Apple ID being hacked, but you should still set a complex password to prevent brute-force or dictionary attacks. The same goes for all your accounts, so it’s best to let your iPhone or Mac automatically generate a strong password and store it on the Keychain for convenient password management.

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