How can you stop your emails from being tracked?

All those nasty marketing emails filling your inbox aren’t just sending out a product. They also keep track of whether you’ve opened the email, when you opened it, and where you were at the time by embedding tracking software in the message using software like Mailchimp.

How does it work? A single tracking pixel is attached to the email, usually (but not always) hidden within an image or link. When the email is opened, the code within the pixel sends the information back to the company’s server.

Some attempts have been made to limit the amount of information that can be transmitted in this way. For example, since 2014, Google served all images in Gmail through their own proxy servers, which can hide your location from at least some tracking apps. And extensions like ugly email and PixelBlock It was developed to block trackers in Chrome and Firefox.

There’s also a simple, basic step you can take to avoid trackers: stop your email from automatically uploading images, because images are where most of those pixels are stored. This way you won’t be able to avoid all the trackers that might be lurking in your email, but you will stop many of them.

Here’s how to disable automatic image upload in major desktop and mobile email apps:

Gmail on the web

  • To access your settings, click on the gear icon in the upper right corner and then click on “See all settings”.
  • In the “General” tab (first one), go to “Images”.
  • Select “Ask before viewing external images”.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Save Changes”.

Note that this will also turn off Gmail’s dynamic email feature, which makes emails more interactive.

In the “General” tab, go to “Images” and select “Ask before viewing external images”.

Microsoft Outlook.com

Although the browser-based version of Outlook doesn’t let you stop uploading images, you can have it upload images via its own service. To enable this:

  • Click on “Settings” (gear symbol in the upper right corner). In the column that opens, click “View all Outlook settings” at the bottom.
  • Select “General” > “Privacy and data”.
  • Scroll down to “External images” and select “Always use Outlook service to upload images”.

Outlook.com can route incoming images through its own service.

Outlook.com can route incoming images through its own service.

Microsoft Outlook for Windows 10 (Office 365)

  • Click “File” > “Options”.
  • Select “Trust Center” in the “Outlook Options” window.
  • Click the “Trust Center Settings” button.
  • Check the boxes labeled “Automatically download images in standard HTML email messages or RSS items” and “Do not download images in encrypted or signed HTML email messages”. If you want, you can make a few exceptions by examining the boxes under the first item.

To stop automatic downloads, go to the Trust Center.

To stop automatic downloads, go to the Trust Center.

Microsoft Outlook for Mac (Office 365)

  • Go to “File” > “Preferences” > “Reading”.
  • You can choose to automatically download images only from trusted contacts or disable all automatic image downloads.

Outlook for Mac only lets you download images from contacts.

Outlook for Mac only lets you download images from contacts.

apple mail

  • Select “Mail” > “Preferences”.
  • Click on the “Viewing” tab.
  • Uncheck “Upload remote content to messages”.

Uncheck “Upload remote content to messages”.

Gmail for Android

  • Tap the three lines in the upper left corner.
  • Scroll down and select “Settings”.
  • Tap the email account you want to configure.
  • Scroll down and select “Images”.
  • Tap on “Ask before viewing external images”.

In “Settings” scroll down to “Images”.

Select “Ask before viewing external images”.

Gmail for iOS

  • Open Gmail for iOS, tap the hamburger menu in the top left and scroll down to settings.
  • Tap the account you want to customize, then tap “Images”.
  • Switch from “Always display external images” to “Ask before viewing external images”.

in your account

Tap “Images” in your account.

Select “Ask before viewing external images”.

Apple Mail for iOS

  • Tap on “Settings” > “Mail”.
  • Find the “Messages” section and turn off the “Load Remote Images” option.

Start by selecting “Settings” > “Mail”.

Turn off “Load Remote Images”.

Turn off “Load Remote Images”.

Another option is to use an email client like the one below. lightning birdblocking remote images by default; The app allows you to download embedded content individually or allow images from people you trust not to send secret code to their images.

Updated July 3, 2019 at 3:47 PM ET: This article has been updated to include additional information about email clients.

Updated September 3, 2019 at 7:35 PM ET: This article has been updated to include instructions for disabling automatic image upload in Gmail for iOS.

Update February 17, 2021, 5:30 PM ET: Microsoft Mail instructions have been removed and several instructions have been updated.

Update June 11, 2021, 8:00 AM ET: Added Outlook.com and Outlook for Mac instructions and updated a few more instructions.

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