How To Stop Emails From Spying On You

Companies are very much inquisitive and interested in out private lives, most especially online, they want to know what you do online, when and what you post on social media, when you visit a site, when and what you read on Wikipedia and lots more.

In the pursuit of this, they went as far as to know when you read a mail, how much time you spent reading them, where you were when you do so, the device you used and much more. Due to technology development, they have been able to achieve this via a snooping trick called Tracking Pixel.

How Tracking Pixel Work

Tracking is usually an invisible image file that measures ‘1’ pixel high and ‘1’ pixel wide. This image is embedded into your email via HTML.

Unlike when you mail a friend or vice versa, that all you use is just plain text, companies and marketers send their with images in it, showing the company’s logo or products. This images are not really embedded in to the mail, they are done with HTML code, so when this email is opened, the HTML tells your computer to get the image from the sender’s server, and as this is done, the sender will be able to know exactly when you open the mail, how long you spent reading the mail etc,.

A tracking pixel in an email sent to subscribers of the email list in October 2018 by Granicus, a government contractor that provides email services to 4,000 government agencies, identified by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Image: EFF

How To Stop Emails From Spying On You

Although tracking pixel has been a great tools to marketers, as it helps them to know how many of their mail recipient read the mail.It is now being used by anyone. The good news about it is that, they can easily be stopped.

Having known that tracking pixel works as remote images in an email loads immediately the recipient opens it, all we need to do to stop it is to configure our mail client to stop remote images from loading until we say otherwise.

Below are ways to prevent auto-loading of remote images in popular email clients:


Web (Standard Desktop View)

• Log into your Gmail account

• Click the Settings (cog) icon

• Now click Settings

• On the Settings screen under the General tab, scroll down to the Images section and make sure ‘Ask before displaying external images‘ is selected.

Android App

• Go to settings

• Select your account

• Tap on Images, and then select ‘Ask before showing

iOS’s Mail app

• Go to the Settings app

• Tap Mail

• Toggle the “Load Remote Images” switch to OFF (white)

macOS Mail app

• Go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and uncheck “Load remote content in messages

Outlook email client

Microsoft has disabled loading remote images by default – a wise move. To make sure it’s still disabled,

• Open Outlook

• Choose Options > Trust Center

• Under Microsoft Outlook Trust Center, click Trust Center Settings.

• Make sure the “Don’t download pictures automatically in HTML email messages or RSS items” checkbox is not checked.

While trying to stop tracking pixel by disabling remote images from loading, some emails from banks, companies can look a little bit rough. However, all the email client and services listed above offer a one click button to load images for a specific mail. And with this, I don’t see any reason not to disable remote images from loading.


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