iOS 15’s privacy protection feature in Apple Mail doesn’t extend to Apple Watch

A new privacy protection feature in Apple Mail that launched alongside iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 isn’t actually supported when using the company’s Mail app on Apple Watch.

Apple Mail on iPhone, iPad and Mac

HIGHLIGHTS

  • iOS 15, iPadOS 15 and macOS Monterey add new privacy protections to Apple Mail
  • It hides your IP address and disables tracking pixels used to collect email analytics
  • However, those protections are non-existent when using Mail on Apple Watch

Why Mail privacy protection doesn’t work on Apple Watch

According to a Twitter post by two security researchers that call themselves Mysk, the Mail Privacy Protection feature introduced in iOS 15 doesn’t apply to the watchOS Mail app. They also confirmed that both the Mail app and the notification preview on Apple Watch do indeed download remote content using the user’s real IP address.

With the Mail Privacy Protection feature, Apple aims to boost your privacy when using its own Mail app on iPhone, iPad or Mac. With it turned on, senders are unable to log your device’s IP address to determine its location when reading an email. Furthermore, Mail Privacy Protection makes tracking even harder by disabling special pixels embedded in emails that are used to track when you’ve opened an email message, whether you have forwarded it to another party, how many times you viewed an email and so on.

From a support document on the Apple website:

In the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection helps protect your privacy by preventing email senders from learning information about your Mail activity. When you turn it on, it hides your IP address so senders can’t link it to your other online activity or determine your location. It also prevents senders from seeing if you’ve opened the email they sent you.

To get started, open Settings on iPhone or iPad and choose “Mail” from the root list. Now select the entry labeled “Privacy Protection,” then turn on “Protect Mail Activity.”

What devices does Mail Privacy Protection support?

Apple never said Mail Privacy Protection supports watchOS. Currently, this feature supports iPhones and iPod touches with iOS 15.0 or later, iPad with iPadOS 15.0 or later and Macs with macOS 12.0 Monterey and up. The current watchOS 8 software does not support Mail Privacy Protection nor has Apple ever claimed that it does so there’s that.

If we were betting, we’d put our money on Mail Privacy Protection coming to Apple Watches via a future watchOS update. It’s also possible that this feature is too resource-intensive on a wrist-worn device, in which case Mail Privacy Protection could require a new Apple Watch model. That said, hover, this is far less likely. We think this is a development issue that will be rectified sooner than later because it doesn’t make sense to not extend Mail Privacy Protection to Apple Watch.

Apple also lets you generate unique, random email addresses that forward to your personal email account so you don’t have to share your real one with websites or when signing up for newsletters.