Today’s technology makes email tracking very easy. Surprisingly detailed information gets sent back to that business or person to further their marketing efforts thanks to something called “tracking pixels.” We’ll show you how to block them in Apple Mail.
What Are Tracking Pixels?
Tracking pixels do what it says on the tin — they’re pixels embedded in the body of an email that track your activity. They might be part of an image, but sometimes they’re part of a link or invisible to the naked eye.
When you open an email with a tracking pixel inside, code written into that pixel relays information back to the sender. That can include whether the email was opened, what you clicked on, and even where you were when you opened it.
An article by Karissa Bell for Mashable explains how one email marketing company, called SendGrid, uses tracking pixels. Its version of the software is called Open Tracking:
“Open Tracking adds an invisible, one pixel image at the end of the email which can track email opens. If the email recipient has images enabled on their email client and a request to SendGrid’s server for the invisible image is executed, then an open event is logged.”
Anyone using this software can tell not only that you opened their email, but how often you opened it since an “open event” is logged every time you do.
How You Can Block Them
Luckily there are multiple ways to block email tracking pixels. A couple of them became available with rollouts of iOS 15 and OS Monterey. Whether you’re using an iPad, iPhone, or Mac computer, these updates will let you easily block email trackers.
Apple describes the feature, called Mail Privacy Protection, like this:
“When you receive an email in the Mail app, rather than downloading remote content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection downloads remote content in the background by default – regardless of how you do or don’t engage with the email. Apple does not learn any information about the content.”
The feature also routes remote content downloaded via Mail through a proxy server to prevent an email’s sender from getting your IP address, which can show your location. A proxy IP address from your area will get shown to the sender, so they’ll be able to see the general area, but not the IP address of your machine.
To turn this feature on when using a mobile device with iOS or iPadOS 15 or higher:
- Go to Settings > Mail.
- Tap Privacy Protection
- Toggle Protect Mail Activity on
If you’re on a Mac computer:
- Open the Mail app
- Go to Preferences
- Click Privacy
- Toggle on Protect Mail Activity
Apple claims this method will let users read their emails as normal without blocking images since it loads all the email’s content privately in the background and routes it through proxy servers.
What If I Don’t Have iOS 15 or Monterey or Higher?
If you don’t have the latest update yet, or you’re running a computer that’s too old to download Monterey or higher, there are other ways to block email tracking.
If you’re on a Mac computer:
- Go to Settings > Mail
- Disable Load Remote Images
For iOS devices:
- Go to Mail > Preferences > Viewing
- Uncheck Load remote content in messages
Since tracking pixels are usually either embedded in an image or are tiny, invisible images themselves, this will probably be enough to stop them.
If you’re tired of iPhone apps requesting to track your activity, you can set an automatic response of “No” to further protect your privacy.