Microsoft Outlook is one of the most popular email providers around, making it a big target for malicious activity. From marketing emails flooding your inbox to hackers seeking your private information, Outlook is no stranger to email tracking – but there are ways to stop it.

Anyone can use email tracking software, which means anyone can track your email activity and gain private information you wouldn’t want people to know. Using a single, invisible pixel in an email, a sender can find out how many times the email is opened, when it’s opened, where it’s opened, the time spent reading it, as well as click-throughs on links and attachments.

If you value your privacy and don’t want your personal data ending up in the wrong hands, you’ll want to stop email tracking in Outlook in its tracks. Fortnuately, there are a several of ways to get rid of the intrusive pixel.

If you have a Gmail account, you can also check out how to stop email tracking in Gmail. As for Outlook, follow the steps below.

What is email tracking?

The act of email tracking may be intrusive on your privacy, but it’s generally a harmless way for companies to gain insight into what their readers like, the time they read emails, and what email campaign hits the best. However, email tracking software can be used by anyone, giving cyber crooks the chance to gain valuable information all about you.

In fact, as a Princeton University study on email tracking points out, around 70% of corporate mailing lists contain tracking software, and around 30% of emails leak the recipient’s email address to one or more of these third parties when they are viewed. What’s more, further leaks occur when users click on links in the email.

Email tracking with notification alert

As for how it works, email tracking is the process of tracking sent emails and monitoring the recipient’s activity with them. Often used via your inbox or browser extensions, the tracking software adds a small .GIF or .PNG file in the form of a 1×1 pixel into an email or HTML code of a website. This pixel can be found in the header, footer or body of an email and even in images or links. They are impossible to see, meaning anyone can use email tracking, and you would be none the wiser.

This tiny image is downloaded from the sender’s server as soon as the receiver opens the bugged email, notifying them that the email has been opened and that the email account is active. With this in mind, along with the information it can collect, it’s better to stop email tracking so you can control who knows your private information.

Email tracking can lead to a flurry of spam mail filling up your inbox. Sick of receiving it all? Find out how to block spam email in Outlook.

How to stop email tracking in Outlook

Outlook is available in multiple platforms, including in a browser and as an app on Windows and Mac through Microsoft 365. Whatever platform you mainly use, you can disable images automatically loading in emails. This will stop that small pixel from showing up and tracking your activity.

Disable images in

  • Open in your browser of choice.
  • Click on the Settings “gear” icon in the top right corner.
  • In the sidebar menu, select View all Outlook settings.
Outlook email tracking
  • A window will pop up. Click General in the left-hand sidebar, then Privacy and data.
  • Under External images, make sure Always use the Outlook service to load images is selected.
Outlook email tracking

This won’t stop images being loaded, but Outlook will protect your data by loading images through its own service instead. This should be turned on by default, but it’s a good idea to make sure the right option is selected.

Disable images in Outlook for Windows

  • In the Microsoft Outlook app on Windows, click File in the upper-left corner.
  • Select Options.
  • A pop-up menu will appear. Click on Trust Center in the left-hand sidebar.
  • Under Microsoft Outlook Trust Center, select Trust Center Settings.
Outlook email tracking
  • In the next window, check the boxes next to Don’t download pictures automatically in standard HTML email messages or RSS items and Don’t download pictures in encrypted or signed HTML email messages.
Outlook email tracking

With these switched on, they will block images in emails to help protect your privacy. There are other specific options you can uncheck, but make sure these two are turned on.

Disable images in Outlook for Mac

  • In the Microsoft Outlook app on Mac devices, click File.
  • Select Preferences, then Reading.
  • Under Security, select Never to stop pictures downloading automatically or In messages from my contacts to only download images from familiar contacts

Use a browser extension

You can make sure your emails aren’t being tracked with a browser extension. Chrome extensions, including Ugly Email, PixelBlock and Trocker, can identify and block email trackers by scanning your inbox for tracking pixels and disabling any that they find. They’re free to use and easy to download, and if you want to know which senders are tracking you, they’re useful tools to have installed.

Ugly Email browser extension
Ugly Email browser extension

Use a VPN

Thanks to the spy pixel used in email tracking, senders have the ability to collect information about your IP address, which means they can even know your location. This isn’t exactly the information you want out in the wild, but a VPN can fix that.

Using one of the best VPNs, such as ExpressVPN or Surfshark, can hide your original IP address and change it to a random one from anywhere around the globe. This way, companies, advertisers or threat actors using email tracking won’t be able to obtain any valuable information when it comes to your IP address or location.

Of course, a VPN can do a whole lot more than just save you from email tracking, but it’s a handy perk to have if you haven’t disabled images or use a browser extension.

The best VPN services (2023)

1. ExpressVPN 🥇 $6.66/month

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ExpressVPN ($6.66/month) is still the best VPN. And importantly, it ALWAYS has servers that are open with major streaming sites such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, etc.

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NordVPN is the most widely-used VPN in the world. And it’s easy to see why. It’s a polished app that delivers fast connections (more on this later) to a massive network of VPN servers.

It’s the most reliable at unblocking popular streaming services too – US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, etc. This is because NordVPN hired a full-time technical team (that’s responsible for monitoring its servers’ connections with popular TV streaming services) and has been aggressively investing in its network of IP addresses in key locations.

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Private Internet Access is one of the leading no-log VPN services with over 1-million paying customers.

This VPN is one of the best in the industry at beating streaming sites’ VPN bans. It provides reliable connections with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, MAX, Disney+ Amazon Prime, and many more.

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If you’re looking for an excellent VPN, with an even better price tag, Ivacy ($1.00/month) is a great option.

While it doesn’t do much more than the other VPNs on this list, the main attraction is the price. This is an affordable VPN that will allow you to stream BBC iPlayer, in HD, from any country in the world on Mac, PC, Android, iOS and FireStick. You’ll also be able to unlock other services like US Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, MAX, Amazon Prime, etc. with ease.

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5. CyberGhost $2.19/month

A solid VPN package

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CyberGhost is one of the more established VPNs on the market. It has a well-established, and well-tested global network of servers that perform well.

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Darragh Murphy
Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from the mischievous world of online security to washing machines designed for earbuds. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for laptops into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. When he's not checking out the latest devices and all things tech, he can be found swimming laps, watching terrible shark movies, and trying to find time to game.  Previous Editor at Laptop Mag and News Editor at Time Out Dubai, specialising in food culture, nightlife events, gaming, tech and entertainment.


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