Do you want to track emails, or avoid being tracked !

2021.10.13

(日本語はこちらから)

Background:

Email tracking is often helpful for several reasons such as identifying customers or, targeting their needs, tracking employee’s communications, analyzing tracking data, in pursuing legal matters or simply to spy on people of interest. In this post, you can understand how to use the email tracking process and most importantly how to avoid being tracked.

How to Track Emails:

Before we get to know how to track emails, it is important to understand the process of email delivery itself. Referring to the following graphic, when a sender sends an email it is transferred through the internet via the sender's email server and further to the recipient's email server which then delivers the message to the receiver.

For tracking purposes, a link for one pixel size image is often embedded within the body of the email. This image is often transparent so as to blend with the background and it’s too small for the user to be noticed. When the email is opened, the image which is actually hosted on the tracking server, communicates via the email’s embedded link. The tracking server then is able to collect usage data such as timestamp when the email was opened, how many times the email was reopened, ip address of the recipient, type of device used to open email, etc. Such data is often sold to marketing companies who create strategies or run promotions via online advertisements and target potential customers.

Statistical analysis such as A/B testing can result in a more meaningful outcome for providing a better marketing campaign.

How to avoid being tracked:

The easiest way to avoid being tracked is not to open any emails from unknown senders. Alternatively, you can change email settings to block external images. You can also choose to receive plain text only (i.e. non-html). You can also install a tracker blocking extension in your browser, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browsers have several such extensions which are capable of ad blocking, script blocking etc. Finally you can choose to use a VPN to conceal your digital footprint.

Summary:

After reading this post, you may have got some basic understanding of how email tracking works and how to avoid it if you don't want to be tracked via email.