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Apple is Making Tracking Harder: What Users Can Expect

By August 3, 2023No Comments

As we move into an increasingly digital era, privacy has become a significant concern for consumers worldwide. Monumental shifts are happening in the handling of user data, with privacy protection a key driver. Here, tech giants are leading the way, with Apple in particular taking serious steps to secure user privacy and altering how third-party tracking functions.

These changes are leaving marketers scratching their head about what to expect.

What changes did Apple make to link tracking? 

In June 2023, Apple publicized forthcoming privacy changes, met with mixed reactions, particularly from marketers and media professionals. These changes, already in beta and scheduled to officially launch in September 2023, will profoundly impact how campaigns and user activity are tracked and monitored.

One of the most significant updates concerns link tracking. To enhance user privacy, Apple announced it would automatically remove link trackers from URLs sent via Message or Mail. Additionally, link trackers will be removed when URLs are opened in Safari Private Browsing.

From Apple:
“Some websites add extra information to their URLs in order to track users across other websites. Now this information will be removed from the links users share in Messages and Mail, and the links will still work as expected. This information will also be removed from links in Safari Private Browsing.”

How do Apple’s changes affect campaign tracking and attribution?

Tracking at the granular, user-specific level will be more difficult, especially for multi-touch journeys. 

Tracking post-link-click activities will be impacted due to personal identifying parameters being stripped. For example, Google Analytics users won’t be able to rely on Google Click Identifiers (GCLID) in ad hyperlinks for Apple users in many scenarios.

What parameters are affected?

According to the latest research, the following parameters are affected:

Parameter Description
__hsfp HubSpot tracking parameter
__hssc HubSpot tracking parameter
__hstc HubSpot tracking parameter
__s email address tracking parameter
_hsenc HubSpot tracking parameter
_openstat Yandex tracking parameter
dclid DoubleClick Click ID (Google)
fbclid Facebook Click Identifier
gclid Google Click Identifier
hsCtaTracking HubSpot tracking parameter
mc_eid Mailchimp Email ID (email recipient’s address)
mkt_tok Adobe Marketo tracking parameter
ml_subscriber MailerLite email tracking
ml_subscriber_hash MailerLite email tracking
msclkid Microsoft Click ID
oly_anon_id Omeda marketing ‘anonymous’ customer id
oly_enc_id Omeda marketing ‘known’ customer id
rb_clickid Unknown high-entropy tracking parameter
s_cid Adobe SiteCatalyst tracking parameter
vero_conv Vero tracking parameter
vero_id Vero tracking parameter
wickedid Wicked Reports e-commerce tracking
yclid Yandex Click ID

List of affected parameters provided by Jeff Johnson and corroborated by Knak.

Why users are mostly unaffected

The good news: Apple is leaving most aspects of UTMs alone, focusing on person-level trackers. If the parameters you use aren’t listed above, you likely won’t notice any affect on your data. 

“The impact will be small for users. Apple is targeting personally identifiable attributes, which is not the main use case for,” says General Manager John Levitt. “As long as our customers are being thorough about their UTM campaigns, they shouldn’t see much difference in their data.”

Most customers rely on standard UTM models and don’t track at the user level through the dashboard. You’ll still see referrer data, and our unique attribution models will still track user paths across your sites.

If you have questions about how this will affect your data, reach out to your account manager.

Common campaign tracking use cases

Tracking campaigns through’s Campaigns feature is an easy way to determine how your distribution efforts drive traffic to your site.

You can set up Campaign Tracking to:

  • View email newsletter engagement
  • Monitor traffic from specific social accounts and posts
  • Assess ROI from paid acquisition and sponsored content
  • Determine the most effective sources for pushing traffic to your channels

Read our guide to UTM best practices for getting the most out of your Campaigns dashboard.Not a customer yet? 

Schedule a free demo to get started