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Is iOS 17 a new problem for marketers to worry about?

Do you remember when Apple released iOS 14.5 and how we all collectively freaked out? Well, they’ve only gone and done it again! To recap, to combat iOS 14.5, our solution was to make better use of UTMs (Urchin Tracking Modules) and track our social traffic using Google Analytics (then Google started pushing GA4 but we won’t talk about that right now). Now, as if we aren’t still recovering, Apple has announced iOS 17 which strips ID-based or user-identifiable UTM tracking from URLs with “Link Tracking Protection”, a new feature in Mail, Messages and Safari in private browsing.

UTMs have long been a valuable tool for marketers, allowing them to track the performance of their digital campaigns by appending parameters to URLs. These parameters capture data on the source, medium, campaign, and other relevant information. An example of a UTM URL is as below. With the release of iOS 17, Apple has implemented a privacy-focused approach, resulting in the stripping of user-identifying UTMs from URLs. This change poses a challenge for marketers, as it diminishes the granularity of data they can collect and analyse – affecting user-identifying IDs taken from URLs.

Note: Before we go any further, we would like to note that general source/medium/campaign parameters will be left untouched if they do not identify users. However, if these parameters pertain to any user-identifiable information such as click IDs (think, Google ads GCLIDs), then this is where iOS 17 will strip information. See below an example.

utm id stripping ios 17 marketing click ids


What’s the problem with iOS 17 for marketers?

Here are some specific areas that could be affected by iOS 17, with some posing more of a concern than others:

  • Email marketing: Mail Privacy Protection in iOS 15 made it more difficult to track email opens and clicks. This increased reliance on UTMs. Now, iOS 17’s Link Tracking Protection in Mail could make it increasingly difficult to measure the effectiveness of email campaigns.
  • PPC marketing: The effectiveness and usefulness of GCLIDs may be slightly reduced with the introduction of iOS 17. This means ad personalisation may become only a little less powerful. While PCM (Private Click Management) offers an alternative, it won’t hold up to the detail we currently receive via GCLIDs. Regardless, this won’t fully bring GCLIDS to a close, as it will only affect private browsing sessions. However, we should keep these updates in mind when reviewing performance in the coming months. 
  • Social media marketing: Similar to PPC platforms like Google, click IDs will be stripped from social ads clicks such as Facebook ads (GBCLIDS). Again, this will not be as major of an effect as iOS 14.5, however, we should take note of this move.

Now, we should note that we’re not massively freaking out over this. Reason being, Link Tracking Protection seems to only work when a user is browsing in private mode

What’s the general consensus from marketers?

As always, there are those that are fairly pleased to see Apple’s moves towards a privacy-first setup and those that are constantly slapping their foreheads as Apple continues to deal blows to marketers.


ios reddit


However, one common trend we’re seeing is confusion over what data is stripped also seems to be somewhat prevalent, with some marketers assuming that all UTM parameters including source and medium are stripped. Please note that this is not the case, the main focus here will be user-identifying parameters such as user IDs and click IDs.


ios reddit confusion

What should I do in the wake of iOS 17?

To be honest, there’s no major need for change in your digital marketing efforts at the moment. Right now, we would highly recommend making use of Analytics (on-platform or GA4) and noting any considerable changes in your marketing data. However, we predict that there won’t be a significant impact on digital marketing with this iteration. However, could Apple’s next steps be to come after UTM tracking as a whole – source/medium and all?

Picture of Meghan Semple

Meghan Semple

I'm Digital 24's Performance Marketing Director. My bread and butter's in advertising on channels like Facebook and Google as well as others like TikTok, Pinterest and LinkedIn... However, I'm quite a data-driven person and love chatting all-things tracking, analytics and even some SEO!