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How to disable email tracking in Gmail

Not all emails are answered. It goes without saying that the average person probably ignores a few emails every week and often the types of emails that are ignored are of a certain type. They may be trying to sell you something, they may be trying to get you sign up for some random service, or they might simply be the occasional reminder or promotion from a service you already use. Regardless, these harmless emails that you ignore often tend to track if they’ve been opened or not. They do this by inserting a bit of code in the email that isn’t visible in the body. There’s no harm in it except they might keep emailing you compulsively and it’s a little on the stalker-side of emailing. If you use Gmail, and either Chrome or Firefox, you can use the Ugly Email extension to check for tracked emails, and disable email tracking in Gmail.

Disable email tracking

Install the Ugly Email extension in your browser. Once it’s installed, it will automatically open Gmail in a new tab.

Each email in your Gmail inbox will have an icon next to it representing the tracking status of that email. If you see an eye icon next to the title of an email, it has a tracker that tells the sender if you’ve opened the email or not.

So the great thing about this extension is that where it detects tracked emails, it automatically disables the trackers they use. You can open an email that has a tracker in it, and the sender will not know if you opened it or not. There is no user intervention involved in the process.

Ugly Email manages to detect most email trackers however, it won’t detect every single one of them. This is a work in progress and the extension’s developers are actively working to include detection for more and more tracking services.

Marketing 101

The fact that emails are being tracked may be shocking but this is a pretty basic practice as far as email marketing goes. Some would argue that it’s no different than Google showing you ads based on the emails you’re getting. It’s not strictly illegal but definitely shady. Email tracking has been going on for a long time and some trackers go beyond just checking if an email was opened. Emails that include a call to action, e.g. a sign up button, or a button encouraging you to shop on-sale items, or apply a promo code, may have their very own tracker that tells the sender if you clicked it or not which then translates into a successful (or unsuccessful) email marketing campaign. You’d be surprised how much thought and analysis goes into all of this.

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