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Link Tracking Protection: What Ecommerce Brands Need to Know About iOS 17

Link Tracking Protection: What Ecommerce Brands Need to Know About iOS 17

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

Apple's iOS 17 update includes a new feature called Link Tracking Protection, which automatically removes user-identifiable tracking parameters from URLs. 

Yikes?!?! Actually, maybe not. 

How will iOS 17 Link Tracking Protection work?

Link Tracking Protection will be enabled by default in Apple’s native Mail app, Messages, and Safari's Private Browsing mode

It works by sorting user-identifiable tracking parameters in link URLs, and then removing them. These parameters are automatically placed into links by Google, Facebook, and some affiliate platforms to track users’ activity across their buying journey. By removing these parameters, Link Tracking Protection makes it more difficult for these companies to track users' online behavior.

This could have a number of implications but here’s the bottom line: it will be marginally harder to identify which links are leading to conversions or which channels contribute to sales, but not impossible. 

How will iOS 17 impact ecom marketers?

First things first, the typical UTMs that you append to your links will not be affected by this update. Those UTMs are not unique personal identifiers, but instead aggregate directional information about where the user was before landing on your website. 

By “typical UTMs,” we’re talking about source, medium, campaign, etc. 

But this is where it gets juicy: iOS 17 will affect Google Analytics ability to track your Google Ads, Meta’s ability to track Facebook Ads, and Facebook’s Conversion API.

Google and Meta are reliant on click IDs (aka “fbclid” and “gclid,”) which are automatically generated and appended with unique identifiers.

Does this mean the sky is falling? Nah. 

Most shoppers use Facebook through their native application, which will not be affected by this. Google Search Ads will be impacted, but only if you’re browsing incognito (private mode) in Safari. 

What will not be impacted by iOS 17?

Remember, this update is going to affect users who are browsing in private-mode in Safari, Apple’s native Mail app, and Messages. That means the following menagerie of online shopping features will not be affected by iOS 17:

  • Non-Safari browsers like Chrome or Firefox
  • Standard Safari browsing
  • Standard UTM parameters
  • Custom parameters such as “tw_source”
  • Klaviyo and TikTok click iD parameters

It is worth noting that we’re not aware of click IDs from Klaviyo or TikTok being stripped by Apple, but it is possible that this will happen in the future.  

Can someone check on Apple’s marketing team? 

‘Cause they’re just like us.When we did some recon on their marketing tactics, we saw that our dear friends at Apple are also using UTMs. Here's a landing page reached from an Apple ad:

And here's the link, in all its appended glory:

We predict that it’s just a matter of time until Apple will eventually remove all UTMs, and we’ll all be forced to adapt. Luckily, we’ve got some time to solve that problem. In the meantime, if you’re reliant on Google Analytics and Facebook to report on your performance, it’s time to start looking for a better attribution solution.  

What will happen to Triple Whale’s attribution? 

The short version: This update will not impact Triple Whale’s attribution.

Triple Whale already uses alternative methods to track user activity without auto-appending unique identifiers to links. Your Triple Whale UTMs will not be affected either. We're keeping our eyes out for any changes, and continuously looking for ways to solve for any potential future issues to protect our customers and their businesses.

We’ll be back with updates to this post as we learn more information! Apple will be releasing iOS 17 in Beta starting in July, and we’ll have our ear to the ground until the full launch in September. 

Have more questions? Book a demo to learn more about how our attribution will withstand upcoming iOS 17 changes.

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