Companies want you to sign up for their email updates or newsletters. Tracking user behavior via email is an age-old practice and compromises your security and privacy. To prevent this, here’s how to stop email tracking in Gmail (the world’s most popular email service) and the Apple Mail app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
How email tracking works!
Email marketing services, corporations, newsletter providers, etc., use email tracking to better understand your preferences and show targeted ads that are relevant and bring conversion (that is, you interact with the mentioned product or service and buy them).
They do this by using invisible tracking pixels in the email’s images (or web links). When the receiver opens the email, the hidden tracking pixels pass on the information to the marketer that you opened the email or clicked the link. These can also share other information about your email activity, plus pass on your computer/device details, IP address, location, add or read browser cookies, and more.
How to stop email tracking in Gmail
The two primary ways to access Gmail are via a web browser on a computer and the official app on iOS or Android.
Besides checking the email images for harmful software, Gmail automatically blocks the images if it thinks the sender or the message is suspicious and asks you if you want to see the images in the email. However, you can strengthen your privacy by setting Gmail to always ask before displaying external images in the email (remember, images have hidden tracking pixels).
After this, you can allow loading email images from senders you trust. Rest all emails, won’t load the images, and thus no hidden tracking pixels will get to work!
Gmail on the web
Follow these steps to prevent email tracking in Gmail on the web:
- Visit mail.google.com and make sure you’re signed in.
- Click the gear icon from the top right and pick See all settings.
- Scroll down the General section and check the box for Ask before displaying external images.
- Go to the bottom and click Save Changes > Continue.
From now on, Gmail won’t load images inside emails. To see email images from trusted or desired senders, click Display images below.
Gmail app on iOS and Android
Here’s how to stop email tracking in the Gmail mobile app:
- Open the official Gmail app and tap the hamburger icon (three short lines) from the top left.
- Choose Settings.
- Select the email account from the top.
- Choose Images.
- Select Ask before displaying external images.
As stated, you’ll no longer see images in the emails. If you wish to see them, go inside an email and tap Display images.
How to prevent email tracking in the Apple Mail app
Mail Privacy Protection in the Mail app on Apple devices does a recommendable job by “hiding your IP address and loading remote content privately in the background.” This is enabled by default and should be enough for most users. Still, if preferred, you can block all remote content in the emails you receive on the email accounts/email services added to the Mail app. After this, the Mail app won’t automatically load and display images in your emails. In case you trust an email sender and wish to see the images, you have the easy option to load and view the images.
iPhone or iPad
Follow these steps to get yourself out of email tracking in the iOS Mail app:
- Open Settings on iPhone or iPad and tap Mail.
- Tap Privacy Protection.
- Turn off Protect Mail Activity, and it will show two options.
- Turn on Block All Remote Content. Hide IP Address should be enabled by default, and I recommend keeping it that way.
From now on, you won’t see external images inside your emails. If you wish to view them on a per-case basis, tap Load All Images from the top of an opened email.
These steps will help prevent email tracking inside the Mail app on Mac:
- Open the macOS Mail app and press Command + Comma (,) keys to see its preferences.
- Click Privacy.
- Uncheck Protect Mail Activity.
- Check Block All Remote Content. Plus, leave Hide IP Address checked.
From here on out, Mac’s Mail app won’t load remote images. When you open an email with external images, it will show a banner on the top. If you trust the sender or wish to see the pictures, simply click Load Remote Content, and it will refresh the email with all its images.
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