Hidden trackers in your email inbox may allow data brokers to connect your real identity with your sensitive online activity. Disconnect is excited to launch a new standalone Email Tracker category to further protect you and your inbox from invasive surveillance.
Did you know that up to 70% of the emails you receive contain hidden trackers? These email trackers not only let senders know if you opened the email or not, but also may be able to collect your email address along with your IP and unique digital fingerprint. This data may further allow trackers to connect your email address with the other data they collect about your online activity, including the websites you visit, apps you use, purchases you make, your location history, employer, and much more.
How email tracking works
Tons of companies that send you emails, especially marketing emails and newsletters, use service providers to help them measure campaigns and analyze how you react to the emails they send. Email trackers often, but not always, are integrated into emails in the form of an invisible pixel, which is a transparent image. When you open the email, the pixel loads and sends information back to the email tracker.
What information is collected
The information that is sent back to the tracker depends somewhat on your email provider (e.g., Gmail, Outlook, etc.), or even the email client you use (e.g., Apple Mail, Outlook for Windows, etc.), but data collected and retained may include your IP, location information, a unique identifier that is tied to your real email, and other information about your device and browser that allows trackers to personally identify a particular user, or a particular device. And of course, all this data that is collected simply by opening an email not only goes to to the email tracker, but to anyone the email tracker shares or sells that data to in the future. This data could be used to help advertisers build a profile, but could also be used by employers, insurers, governments, or criminal attackers.
Why email tracking is such a risk
Making privacy matters even worse, for many of us our actual email address itself is tied to our real name (e.g., email@example.com) and where we work (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org). Also our email address may stay the same for long periods of time, which the surveillance industry takes advantage of by using our email addresses as a persistent hard identifier to build a more valuable and personally identifiable profile. This means that years or even decades of your online activity could be linked to your email address and the real you.
Our Email Tracker protection
For many years we have included email trackers in our protection data set, as some email trackers are also found in websites and apps, but today we are launching a new standalone Email Tracker category. This category is the result of a project we embarked on at the beginning of 2021. During the last year we have analyzed over 10 million emails to identify, verify, and compile the most comprehensive list of email trackers available. This new protection is now on by default in our iOS Privacy Pro, Premium, and DNS Privacy apps and will be integrated into all our apps in the near future. At Disconnect we believe everyone has the right to privacy, whether that be in your browser, apps, or inbox.
We hope you enjoy this added layer of privacy protection and please feel to reach out with any questions!