When you receive marketing emails in your inbox, whether or not it’s for a service you subscribe to, there is a good chance a tracking software is embedded within. With privacy at the forefront of the discussion these days, it’s important to know how you can avoid being unwillingly tracked. Let’s take a look at why this subject matters and how you can block tracking pixels in Apple Mail.
Why Blocking Tracking Pixels Matters
If you are not familiar with tracking pixels, it’s important to understand how they work. For HTML emails, which are generally what you are receiving, there is usually a link to an image that is hidden inside the email. This is the most popular place to insert a tracker. When you click to open that image, it gets the image from a remote server. When this happens, whoever sent you the email now knows you have opened the email, which leads them to believe you are interested in the subject material.
That’s not where the story ends, though. Taking it one step further, there is a good chance when you click on this image that your IP address is sent back to the server, meaning your location is now available to the sender. On top of your location, there is also a good chance they can tell what type of device you are using, which can also lead to more direct email targeting. So what can you do to ensure you are safe from this type of invasive email tracking?
Anyone who wants to disable this type of tracking in the default Apple Mail app can easily do so on both macOS and iOS.
Block Tracking on macOS
1. Open Apple Mail, then head to the top menu bar and locate “Mail -> Preferences.”
2. When you are at this window, look at the “Viewing” tab and locate the option for “Load remote content in messages,” You will see a warning here for “Email messages may contain images or content stored on remote servers.” While this is likely being done to help keep email sizes to a minimum, this is also how these trackers are embedded.
3. Uncheck the box, restart and reopen Apple Mail, and verify that the “Load remote content in messages” box remains unchecked.
Once this is done, you will now have the option of manually opening up images when they arrive in your inbox. If you are positive the email is from a safe sender and/or someone you don’t mind having access to your info, a box appears at the top of each individual email prompting you to load the missing images. Doing so may be a pain if you open many emails regularly, but it’s also the safest way to avoid being tracked through your Mac’s Mail app.
Block Tracking on iOS
Just as tracking can easily be done through remote server images on macOS, the same can be done on iOS. Fortunately, like macOS, it’s incredibly easy to put an end to this.
1. Start by heading to Settings, then scrolling down until you find the Mail app.
2. As you open the Mail app settings, scroll about halfway until you find the option for “Load Remote Images.”
3. Toggle this button off (so that it’s gray instead of green) to stop remote images from loading in your inbox.
That’s all you have to do on iOS.
Rest assured that while these steps are outlined for macOS, you can easily perform similar settings changes in Gmail and Outlook. For Gmail in iOS, you can head to the “hamburger menu” at the top left (three bars), go to “Settings -> [Your Email Address] -> Images” and toggle the option to “Ask before displaying external images.”
Rest assured that privacy will continue to be an issue for the foreseeable future, which makes blocking tracking pixels in Apple Mail an imperative task. If you are not a fan of Apple Mail, use these alternatives instead.