Apple Watch seems to be violating the privacy of mail in iOS 15

This is not good.
Photo: Apple / Cult of Mac

Be sure to use Mail on your Apple Watch. Security researchers have found that receiving messages on your wrist compromises the privacy of mail in iOS 15 by revealing your IP address to senders.

Mail privacy protection – available for Mac, iPhone and iPad – is designed to prevent this from happening by masking your actual IP address. But using mail on the Apple Watch seems to completely undermine that.

Apple Watch violates mail privacy protection

Mail privacy protection works by routing all your mail content across multiple proxy servers and then assigning random IP addresses based on your region – much like Private Relay works for Safari if you have iCloud +.

This allows senders to see your general region, but not your exact location. It also prevents them from linking your email activities to other online search habits, which could be used to create your profile.

Mail privacy protection also prevents senders from seeing if you opened an email, how many times you viewed it, or if you forwarded a message. But there seems to be one big caveat.

Security researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk have found that when you use Mail on an Apple Watch, all of those protections come out of the window, as mail privacy protection is not supported in watchOS.

Avoid using mail on the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch downloads all remote content, such as images, using your real IP address – even if you have mail privacy protection enabled on iPhone. You don’t even have to open an email for this to happen.

Warning: The mail privacy protection introduced in iOS 15 does not apply to the Mail app on the Apple Watch. Both the Mail app and the notification viewer on the Apple Watch download remote content using your real IP address. #Cybersecurity #iOS

Although Apple does not advertise privacy protection in support of watchOS, this still seems like an oversight. And that’s something most Apple Watch users are likely to miss when they use the function to hide their IP address.

The only way to avoid this is to disable email notifications and avoid the app on watchOS. To block notifications, follow these steps:

  1. Open up Look iPhone application.
  2. Select Mail.
  3. Touch Custom, then tap Notifications are off.

We hope Apple will address this in a future update to watchOS.

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Naveen Kumar

Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.

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