SPY PIXELS – Email Tracking

Email spying
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“See who’s tracking your email”

What if we tell you that all our emails are being tracked and our information is being collected. Yes, it is high time we take security seriously and understand the gravity of the scenario.


To start with, let us first understand what spy pixels are. Spy pixels which are also known as tracking pixels or web beacons. They are invisible and tiny image files( .PNGs and .GIFs) which are inserted in the content body of an email. They may appear as clear, white and remain unseen by a recipient and are often as small as 1×1 pixels.

What does a Spy Pixel do?

The function of a spy fixel, as the name suggests, is to track and log information such as; 

  • if and when an email is opened
  • how many times it is opened
  • what device or devices are involved
  • the user’s rough physical location, deduced from their internet protocol (IP) address – in some cases making it possible to see the street the recipient is on.

Nowadays, spy pixels in emails have been prevalent and it is critical that we notice it and act accordingly and protect our information.

Since they are tiny and white in colour it is not possible to view it and the users need not click any link for it to activate. Defenders of the trackers say they are a marketing tactic. And several of the companies involved noted their use of such tech was mentioned within their wider privacy policies.

Tracking pixels are a standard feature of all the automated email services used by large and small businesses, and in many cases the facility is difficult to turn off.

Recently Hey messaging service has discovered that roughly two-thirds of emails sent to its users’ private email accounts contained spy pixels. According to Hey co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, spy pixels represent a “grotesque invasion of privacy.”

With all of us talking about Facebook’s privacy policy and how all of our data is linked to it, we also have to be aware of such tracking beacons on the internet.

Use of tracking pixels is governed in the UK and other parts of Europe by 2003’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (Pecr) and 2016’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

They require organisations to inform recipients of the pixels, and in most cases to obtain consent.

What can be done?

Users can install plug-ins which are available for free into other email programs to strip out many pixel trackers present in it. Other options are to set their software to block all images by default, or to view emails as plain text.

It is possible to prevent tracking pixels from triggering by disallowing automatic image uploads in your web browser, or by downloading email and browser add-ons to block trackers.

If your system is compromised or if you would like to be prepared you can contact us at info@rootfloe.com for a free consultation.

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