5 Things You Should Know About Email Trackers

Peter Steven Ho
7 min readFeb 22, 2022

Also known as 1 × 1 pixel trackers, they’re the data vampires that go undetected in your emails.

An overlay of two photos Geralt from Pixabay provided the phone, hands and envelopes, and OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay provided the pixel Space Invaders.

It’s getting harder and harder to keep your online activities private. Everyone — governments and commercial organisations alike — wants to know your opinion, what you like or dislike, what you do or don’t do online and all your social interactions.

Most of us will no doubt be familiar with the use of cookies. They’re used by websites to track our activity when we visit the website. Some sites are polite enough to ask for our permission, while others aren’t, but there’s little doubt that your activities will be monitored using cookies.

1. Unlike cookies, email trackers don’t need your permission

Current regulations on the use of cookies “limit” the type of information that it can capture, relay and retain. Furthermore, in some jurisdiction, a site must obtain a user’s consent for cookies that do more than what’s legally permitted.

But nothing similar exists for email trackers and that makes its use a free-for-all. Worst still, we don’t even get an option or a right to opt out.

2. You can’t tell if your email has a tracker

When an email arrives in your inbox, there’s nothing to indicate an embedded tracker is in the email.

The tracker itself is essentially an image, it’s transparent and it’s only one pixel by one pixel in dimension, which makes it invisible and undetectable to the naked eye.

Without some kind of software filter or detector, you would be none the wiser.

3. The information that trackers can collect

When the recipient opens the tainted email, the mail client or browser automatically contacts the server to source the transparent image.

At a minimum, that request is logged, along with the IP address, to indicate that the email has been opened.

But for those with more nefarious intent in mind, the image server could also instruct the email client or browser to report on:

  • who, when and how many times the email was…
Peter Steven Ho

BSc (Hons), LLB. Freelance writer in Technology, Science and Travel. Come join me on a journey of discovery.