Emails have become an essential part of our daily lives. Whether it be shooting off important documents to your boss or firing over a flood of memes to your pal, emails are a vital part of digital communication – and email tracking takes advantage of this.

Simply opening an email can lead to companies learning key information about you, such as 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. With email tracking, companies and threat actors are given the tools to capture your data, and all it takes is a single, invisible pixel.

If you like your privacy, you may not want this personal information being taken right under your nose. The good news is there are many ways to stop email tracking in well-known providers like Gmail, and it will prevent unwanted spam emails, phishing attacks and more from filling up your inbox.

Follow our step-by-step guide below to stop email tracking in Gmail for good.

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. 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.

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 representation

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.

If you’ve played into the hands of email tracking and started receiving waves of spam emails, check out how to block spam emails in Gmail.

How to stop email tracking in Gmail

The best way to stop Gmail email tracking is to head into settings and stop these invisible pixels from tracking your activity. However, there are a couple of other ways to keep yourself safe from marketing emails and spammers obtaining your information.

Disable images in Gmail

  • In Gmail, click on the Settings gear icon in the top-right corner.
  • Click on See all settings.
How to stop email tracking in Gmail
  • In the General tab, scroll down to the Images option.
  • Select Ask before displaying external images.
How to stop email tracking in Gmail

By checking this option, it will give you the option to disable image loading in emails. If there are no images displayed, the spy pixel won’t be able to load.

Use a browser extension

You can make sure your emails aren’t being tracked with a browser extension. Gmail 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

The fastest and most reliable streaming VPN of 2023

  • 160+ IP addresses in 94+ countries
  • 5 simultaneous devices
  • Live chat support
  • Over 3,000 servers
  • >80% connection speed
  • Unlimited bandwidth
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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.

Read our full ExpressVPN review.

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2. NordVPN $3.19/month

An incredibly fast and trustworthy VPN

  • Over 5,000 servers worldwide
  • 6 simultaneous devices
  • Reliable customer service
  • Fast NordLynx protocol
  • Cybersec ad and tracker blocker
  • Easy to use interface
NordVPN Best VPN image

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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3. Private Internet Access $2.03/month

An affordable, reliable VPN

  • 35,000 servers worldwide
  • Unlimited simultaneous devices
  • 24/7 chat support
  • Servers in over 80 countries
  • MACE ad blocker included
  • Supports multiple protocols
Best VPN list - PIA

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.

Even better, it allows for an unlimited number of simultaneous devices to be connected to its servers at the same time. So you can share the account with all of your friends.

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4. Ivacy $1.00/month

A trustworthy and affordable VPN

  • 5700+ servers worldwide
  • 10 simultaneous devices
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Dedicated IP address option
  • Available on all major platforms
  • Great price
Ivacy Best VPN image

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

  • Deloitte verified no logs policy
  • Servers in 91 countries
  • 7 simulatenous devices
  • Proprietary NoSpy servers
  • Multiple protocol options
  • Split tunneling support
CyberGhost Best VPN image

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.

It also offers NoSpy servers which are specially designed to provide an extra layer of security and privacy for users.

Read our full CyberGhost review.

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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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