There was a time when, as a system, we used an email system whose claim to fame (or at least one of them) was that you could track every email that hit your inbox. You could see if someone read your email, forwarded it to someone else, and replied to it. It was the complete package!
Now, many of us have moved on to other email systems. In my case, I have Gmail and Outlook accounts that I use regularly plus a couple of others for specific purposes. For me, by default, it’s email in – usually/sometimes read, usually/sometimes replied, and sometimes not even opened when I feel this desire for a massive purge. Or, more likely, the title of the email isn’t all that interesting. This is an art, you know.
This morning, the memories of the good old days when you could track if someone opened a message resurfaced in the form of a Google Chrome/ Mozilla Firefox extension called Ugly Email.
The concept is simple – install the extension and see what incoming emails to your Gmail account are tracking to see if you actually open them. So, I gave it a shot to see what happens. It installed nicely and opened a new instance of Gmail with itself ready to go. A quick check of my Primary tab revealed nothing. But, a look at my Promotions tab told a different story.
A partial grab of the tab shows …
See that little eye icon? According to the extension, that message is being tracked by sender to see if you open it. Now, that’s interesting. My first instinct was just to be spiteful and delete it. Is that fair though for my curious side?
I understand the desire to do this on their end; they want to look at the analytics to see if their efforts are being appreciated by me opening their message. It’s a reminder that our connected world is driven by advertising and numbers. After all, cookies and trackers are used on websites all over the place. Unless we go looking for them, they just do their thing.
What about Outlook? This is an interesting read.
From a personal perspective, I’m not terribly worried. Any of the tracking messages came from information services that I’ve subscribed to. I’m sure there was probably information about being tracked in the legal document that I read before I clicked agree. (If you believe that, I have some swamp land…)
How about the paranoid in you? Are you concerned that someone/something might be tracking your emails?