Featured Image

How to Protect Yourself from E-Mail Tracking

October 30, 2017

Nowadays, email tracking is everywhere. In every newsletter, in most commercial email, and even an increasingly large number of individuals are using tools like Mailtrack to learn when and how many times their emails have been opened.

Example of mailtrack in Google Inbox

Example of Mailtrack in Google Inbox (Source)

These email trackers work by inserting a 1x1 transparent image into the emails you sent out. That transparent image has a URL that is unique to each email you send.

For example, it could be: https://mailtrack.io/trace/mail/6a583DAOda=7fe7a261f0a33d64870252b85c0d62ddf88e6.png?u=3BNQD2125830

Now, when your recipient then opens that email, their web browser makes a request to that unique URL to load the image. Mailtrack - or whatever application you are using - is tracking those incoming requests. Based on the URL of the request, Mailtrack knows which email is being read by whom.

I appreciate that hack for its ingenuity. But I don’t always want people to know whether or not I have read their emails. It’s my mail, it’s my inbox - I will read my mail when and how I want.

To protect yourself from e-mail tracking, you need to prevent your browser from loading that transparent tracking image. Fortunately, if you’re using Gmail, it is rather straightforward.

Here we go:

  1. Go to your Gmail Settings
  2. Scroll down to the section labeled ‘Images
  3. Select ‘Ask before displaying external images
  4. Scroll to the bottom and click ‘Save Changes

The next time you receive an email with tracking, you will see that images have been prevented from auto-loading. Here is an email from my friend Jessy in which I successfully prevented mailtracking:

Email with popup: Images are not displayed

If you also use Google Mail on your phone, you may want to turn off automatic image loading there, too. Check out this article for instructions: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/145919