Email Tracking. What it is, and How to Prevent it.

November 21, 2023
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At Yopla we use email tracking across our non-confidential correspondence to measure effectiveness, ensure we are delivering on our commitments, update our clients with information that's relevant to them and drive automations that give us back free time. But, we also recognise that it can pose privacy and security risks for all email recipients, particularly those who may not want to be tracked without their knowledge or consent. This is a situation where our outward technology, risks becoming your inward technology (check out the blog article on inward vs. outward tech here).

So, in this article we'll look at how email tracking works, how to tell if an email has a tracking pixel, and how, if you choose, to prevent email tracking on your device.

A 2023 Zippia report states that in 2023, businesses and consumers sent and received approximately 347.3 billion emails per day worldwide. This is projected to reach over 376 billion by 2025.

How Email Tracking Works

Email tracking is a common practice that involves embedding a tiny image, called a pixel, into an email message. When the recipient opens the email, the pixel sends back information to the sender, such as when and how many times the email was opened, what device and email provider were used, and even the approximate location of the recipient.

The tracking pixel is a 1x1 pixel image (for comparison, that's about the size of a pinhead) which is inserted into the header, footer or body of an email message. It's usually transparent or matches the colour of the background, so won't be visible to the naked eye. The pixel is linked to a server that records when the image is requested; this is usually when the recipient opens the email.

Email tracking pixels can collect a wide variety of information, for example:

  • How many times the email was opened
  • What device or devices were used
  • What email provider was used
  • What region or city the recipient is located in
  • Whether the recipient clicked on any links in the email
Two-thirds of emails sent to personal accounts contained a tracking pixel, according to a review by Hey.

Email tracking pixels can also power remarketing, which allows for personalised ads to be shown to people based on their (in this instance) email activity.

If this sounds familiar, it is ... cookies do a very similar job but are small files stored on your browser when you visit a website enabling companies to track your browsing history across multiple websites ... pixels can only track your email activity within a specific email message.

Facebook do something similar with the Like button, Google across the websites that use their powerful website analytics tools and both Microsoft and Google across their web browsers. Amazon tracks users through its extensive use of cookies and personalised recommendation and bricks and mortar retailers through card use, loyalty cards and more.

32% of respondents agreed that they always accepted all cookies when prompted on visiting a website. The rate was highest among respondents aged 25 to 34 and lowest among the age group 45 to 54

How to Tell If an Email Has a Tracking Pixel

There are a couple of easy ways to tell if an email has a tracking pixel:

  • Use an email service or app that alerts you to the presence of tracking pixels, such as Hey or Mailbird.
  • Inspect the source code of the email message and look for any image tags that have a 1x1 size or a suspicious URL.
How to Prevent Email Tracking

If you want to prevent email tracking on your device, there are a few options:

  • Use an email service or app that blocks or removes tracking pixels automatically, such as Hey or Mailbird. These services or apps will also show you which emails have tracking pixels and what information they are trying to collect.
  • Use a browser extension or plugin that blocks or removes tracking pixels, such as Ugly Email or PixelBlock. These extensions or plugins will also let you see which emails contain tracking pixels and the info they're grabbing.
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network) service that masks your IP address and location. This will prevent the pixel from identifying your approximate location based on your IP address. However, this won't prevent the pixel from collecting other information, such as when and how many times you opened the email.


Email tracking is a widespread practice that helps marketers and salespeople measure and improve their campaigns and can improve customer engagement and experience. However, understanding how these technologies work, and putting yourself in control, is crucial to ensuring that they aren't infringing on your privacy and comfort.

If you would like to find out more about how email tracking works, the good, the bad and the ugly, please do get in touch!

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Cyber Security
Digital Transformation
Co-Founder, Yopla
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