Did you know that tracking your email by the sender or third parties is completely legal? For people who keep a lot of their private and sensitive information on their email, this is really bad news.
In fact, about 40 percent of all emails sent are tracked, as reported by OMC in 2016. Though email tracking services are usually a marketing trick for business companies, the same service can easily be deployed by ill-intentioned individuals such as scammers and hackers to gather information about you.
In both of these cases, email-tracking can be considered an invasion of one’s privacy by many. Luckily, there is something you as a user can do to detect tracked emails and to disable the tracking.
How Does Email Tracking Work?
Email-tracking companies offer the service of email tracking to their clients, promising them more effective consumer relations. By using these 3rd party services, the sender will know the following:
1. When and where you’ve opened their email.
2. What device you used to open the email.
3. Whether or not you clicked on any links within that email and/or opened any attachments.
All without you, the consumer, ever knowing about this.
Needless to say, the 3rd party company, too, will have your information. Yesware, Bananatag, Hubspot, and Streak are the names of just some of the popular email-tracking companies.
How do they do it, you ask? By either inserting an invisible picture into your email, which sends a signal to the company when you open an email or attachment or by making you click on a trackable link within the email to view the content of an email. These are the known methods, but because tracking software is always improving, they might use other methods as well.How to Detect if Your Email Is Being Tracked?
There are a few main methods of detecting an email that is being tracked. Let’s start with manual detection.
1. Look for hidden images. Your email, be it Google, Yahoo or Outlook, will always ask if it should open an external image or not because there might be a trackable image. Just decline this request and you will disable tracking for that email.
2. Don’t click on links in your email that you don’t absolutely trust. This is a general rule for email use, but it also works for tracking concerns.
3. Look for additional email addresses. Look for hidden senders by looking at the original of the email. In Gmail, it’s done by clicking on More (3 dots) and selecting show original and searching for the keyword “track” on the page by clicking Ctrl and F and typing the word “track” in the search box. If you see a result, your email has likely been tracked.
You can also detect and disable a tracked email automatically by using a dedicated app, such as Ugly Email, PixelBlock, or similar that scan your inbox for tracked emails and disable the tracking.
These apps are plugins that you install on your browser. They, too, have their limitations, as they are mostly compatible only for Gmail and can be installed only to Chrome or Firefox. That is why we recommend a combination of both methods to protect yourself fully from trackers.