Unlike messenger apps that have read notifications, email doesn’t work quite the same way, or at least there aren’t any settings that makes it easy for people to track if you’ve read their email.
So what some companies have done is that they embed their emails with a pretty much invisible pixel in a link or an image, so that whenever the email is opened, they will know that you have read their email. Sometimes that information also contains when you’ve opened it and where you’ve opened it.
It feels like an invasion of your privacy and if you’d rather not have companies know what you do with their emails, then here is how you can block it if you’re using Gmail.
Gmail On The Web
- Go to Gmail
- Click the gear icon at the top right corner of the screen
- Click See All Settings
- Under the General tab, look for Images
- Select “Ask before displaying external images”
- Scroll down and click “Save Changes”
What this does is that it disables images from loading in the email, which in turn affects the pixel as well. While your emails might look a bit bland, they will disable the tracker, but you can always manually click the “Display Images” option within emails that you trust.
Gmail For Android
- Launch the Gmail app
- Tap on the three lines in the upper left corner of the app
- Tap on Settings
- Scroll down and look for “Images”
- Tap on “Ask before displaying external images”
Gmail For iOS
- Launch the Gmail app
- Tap the three line icon at the upper left corner of the app
- Tap the account you want to make the changes to
- Tap Images
- Tap on “Ask before displaying external images”, it should now show a checkmark next to it
If you prefer to maintain your Gmail’s current image settings and not mess with that, then your next best alternative would be to use browser extensions. This includes Ugly Email and PixelBlock, both of which are free to download and use. The main difference is that Ugly Email is available for both Chrome and Firefox, while PixelBlock seems to be exclusive to Chrome for now.
Download and install them like you would a normal browser extension and you’re good to go. Emails with pixel trackers will show an “eye” icon next to the sender’s name to let you know that the tracker has been blocked.