Email tracking representation

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 the step-by-step guide below to stop email tracking 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.

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.

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.