Your emails are constantly monitored. Here's how to protect yourself

Your emails are constantly monitored. Here's how to protect yourself
Your emails are constantly monitored. Here's how to protect yourself

Last updated: July 3, 2022

Here's something you might want to think about next time when checking your emails: chances are that some of your messages are spied.

While websites are required to inform you about the cookies they place on your device and the data collected when you visit them, email is still Ali Baba's Cave of hidden surveillance.

Just reading an email can send a surprising amount of data back to the sender, even if you don't respond. To do this, the sender uses a simple and effective technique: the beacon.

What is a tracking pixel?

Also called Tracking pixel or invisible pixel, the spy pixel is an image measuring 1x1px which is added at the end of the email. It is usually transparent and comes in the form of a .gif or .png file. It is therefore completely undetectable to the eye.

When the recipient opens the email, it will trigger the image to load. It can thus provide information on the time the email was opened, the time spent reading it and other important information.

What information can companies collect with the tracking pixel?

If the general regulation on the data protection (GDPR) is generally well respected on the Web, it is still relatively little applied to emails.

Here is the information collected by email tracking:

  • IP address of your computer or phone (and therefore the location).
  • Type of operating system your device uses (WindowsIOS, Android, Mac OS, etc.)
  • Model of your phone.
  • Internet service provider
  • Email opening dates and times.
  • E-mail reading time.
  • Link click tracking.
  • Screen resolution.

So much information that makes it possible to refine targeting and improve marketing campaigns without informing the end customer.

Track and block pixels

A real intrusion into private life since they work in secret, spy pixels are not inevitable. There are several ways to protect yourself and unmask them.

Block the loading of images from your email

One of the easiest ways to block email tracking is to prevent images from being displayed by default. This is a setting you can enable in just about any email service, but you should note that this means loading images into your email will require an extra click.

On Gmail

  • At the top right, click Settings and See all settings.
  • Scroll down to the “Images” section.
  • Click on Ask for confirmation before displaying external images.

  • Finally, click Save Changes at the end of the page.

On Yahoo

  • At the top right, click Settings and Other settings.

  • In the left panel, select Displaying an email.
  • Under the Display images in messages section, select Ask to display external images.
  • Once selected, Yahoo! The settings will be saved automatically.

On Outlook

  • At the top right, click Settings and View all Outlook settings.
  • Scroll down to the “ Sender Images"
  • Select Do not display images from the sender.

On Apple Mail for iPhone

In Apple's Mail app for iOS, you can turn off images by going to the Settings, by selecting " Email » and scrolling to “ Protection of policy.

Finally, check the option Protect your activity in Mail.

Identify trackers with a browser extension

If you check your emails with a web browser, you can equip your browser with a free extension like Ugly Email ou PixelBlock.

They allow you to warn of the presence of a spy pixel in messages before they are opened by displaying an eye icon near the sender's name.

It's up to you to choose whether or not you want to read the email knowing that a stalker is hiding there.