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How to Stop Emails From Spying on You

Companies have been hiding read receipts in your emails for decades. Now everyone's doing it. Here's how to shut that down.

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By Michael Grothaus

Make no mistake about it: Companies want to know everything you do online, whether it's when you post to social media, or what subject you're reading about on Wikipedia. Shadowy data brokers, big tech giants, your ISP, even your local car dealer can
毫无疑问:公司希望了解您在网上所做的一切,无论是您在社交媒体上发布的内容,还是您在维基百科上阅读的主题。阴暗的数据经纪人,大型科技巨头,您的ISP,甚至您当地的汽车经销商都可以tap extensive data on you based on your digital footprint.
基于您的数字足迹。

As tracking techniques get more advanced each year, so do the methods to thwart such attempts. There are literally dozens of browser extensions built to help protect users from tracking --- and
随着跟踪技术每年变得更加先进,阻止此类尝试的方法也是如此。实际上有几十个浏览器扩展来帮助保护用户免受跟踪---和entire browsers themselves. But while it's generally known by most people that our online activities --- where and what we browse --- are being tracked in some way, not many people realize that companies have been using a sneaky hidden trick for decades that allows them to snoop on your email activity.
。但是,尽管大多数人普遍知道我们的在线活动 - 我们浏览的地点和内容 - 正在以某种方式进行跟踪,但并不是很多人意识到公司几十年来一直在使用偷偷摸摸的隐藏技巧,这使他们能够窥探在您的电子邮件活动。

This email tracking allows a company --- or virtually anyone --- to see when and where you've opened an email they've sent you, how long it took for you to read it, and how often you've returned to read the email again. They do this through a snooping trick called a tracking pixel.
这种电子邮件跟踪功能允许公司 - 或几乎任何人 - 查看您何时何地打开了他们发送给您的电子邮件,您需要多长时间阅读它,以及您多久返回一次再次阅读电子邮件。他们通过称为跟踪像素的窥探技巧来做到这一点。

How tracking pixels work

Tracking pixels are usually an invisible image file that measures 1 pixel high by 1 pixel wide that is inserted without your knowledge into an email sent to you. The tracking pixel contains code that, when the email is opened, will send data back to the company's server that tells them exactly what time you read the email, how long you spent reading it, and, many times, even the location you were at when you read the email.
跟踪像素通常是一个不可见的图像文件,测量1像素高,1像素宽,在您不知情的情况下插入发送给您的电子邮件中。跟踪像素包含的代码在打开电子邮件时会将数据发送回公司的服务器,该服务器会准确地告诉他们您阅读电子邮件的时间,阅读时间,以及多次,甚至是您所在的位置当你阅读电子邮件。

Tracking pixels work by leveraging basic HTML technology. While most emails we send to and receive from friends are usually sent in plain text, emails from marketers and other companies generally have HTML-based images in them, such as the company logo or a picture of the company's products.
通过利用基本的HTML技术跟踪像素。虽然我们向朋友发送和接收的大多数电子邮件通常以纯文本形式发送,但来自营销商和其他公司的电子邮件通常都包含基于HTML的图像,例如公司徽标或公司产品的图片。

The images aren't actually embedded in the email itself; instead, they are displayed in the email once the email is opened and the HTML code tells your computer to retrieve the images from the sender's servers. It's this retrieval of the image files from the sender's servers that allow the sender to see exactly what time you opened the email.
图像实际上并未嵌入电子邮件本身;相反,一旦打开电子邮件,它们就会显示在电子邮件中,HTML代码会告诉您的计算机从发件人的服务器检索图像。这是从发件人服务器检索图像文件,允许发件人准确查看您打开电子邮件的时间。

A tracking pixel in an email sent to subscribers of the Whitehouse.gov email list in October 2018 by Granicus, a government contractor that provides email services to 4,000 government agencies, identified by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Image:
电子前线基金会确定的政府承办商Granicus于2018年10月向Whitehouse.gov电子邮件列表的订户发送电子邮件中的跟踪像素,该政府承包商向4,000个政府机构提供电子邮件服务。图片:EFF

Needless to say, tracking pixels are a boon to marketers, because when they send you an email (spam or otherwise), tracking pixels allow the marketer to see how many people have opened the email (and thus, that your email address is valid), and how long people have spent reading their messages.
毋庸置疑,跟踪像素对营销人员来说是一个福音,因为当他们向您发送电子邮件(垃圾邮件或其他)时,跟踪像素允许营销人员查看有多少人打开了电子邮件(因此,您的电子邮件地址有效) ,以及人们花了多长时间阅读他们的信息。

Why tracking pixels are creepy

But despite being a great tool for marketers in an age when our digital privacy matters more than ever, it's clear tracking pixels are creepy for multiple reasons.
但是,尽管我们的数字隐私比以往任何时候都更加重要,但对于营销人员而言,尽管这是一个很好的工具,但由于多种原因,跟踪像素显然令人毛骨悚然。

The first is that no one is ever offered an opt-in or opt-out to tracking pixels. Companies use them without getting your permission first and without your knowledge that they are even being used at all. Given this, why should companies have that right to see when you've read an email in the first place? If someone from the marketing agency was camped out in a tree in front of your house and using binoculars to peer through your windows to see if you're reading their email, we'd call that creepy. So how is using an invisible trick to spy on us to achieve the same goal not creepy?
首先是没有人提供选择加入或选择退出跟踪像素。公司在没有得到您的许可的情况下使用它们,并且在您不知情的情况下甚至根本不使用它们。鉴于此,为什么公司有权利看到您何时阅读电子邮件?如果营销机构的某个人在你家前面的树上露营,并使用双筒望远镜窥视你的窗户,看看你是否正在阅读他们的电子邮件,我们称之为令人毛骨悚然。那么如何使用隐形技巧来窥探我们以实现同样的目标并不令人毛骨悚然呢?

It's also not just marketers that can use tracking pixels. Anyone can insert one into any email they send. And again, this tracking pixel will just be an invisible 1-pixel-by-1-pixel image. You won't know it's there. But by inserting the tracking pixel into your email, the person will be able to spy on a portion of your private life without you ever knowing.
它也不仅仅是可以使用跟踪像素的营销人员。任何人都可以在他们发送的任何电子邮件中插同样,这个跟踪像素将只是一个不可见的1像素乘1像素的图像。你不会知道它在那里。但是,通过将跟踪像素插入到您的电子邮件中,该人将能够在您不知情的情况下窥探您私生活的一部分。

And don't think this can't be abused. By using tracking pixels, a stalker could see when an object of his or her obsession has read their latest email screed. Further, and as already mentioned, not only can a tracking pixel let the stalker know when their email has been read, but what time it was read, on what device it was read, and even the location in which it was read. Remember, because tracking pixels are invisible to the naked eye, an email you receive could look like it only has plain text when in fact it has a tracking pixel in it.
并且不要认为这不能被滥用。通过使用跟踪像素,缠扰者可以看到他或她的痴迷对象何时阅读了他们最新的电子邮件熨平板。此外,并且如已经提到的,跟踪像素不仅可以让跟踪者知道他们的电子邮件何时被读取,还知道什么时候阅读,读取什么设备,甚至读取它的位置。请记住,因为跟踪像素是肉眼看不见的,所以您收到的电子邮件看起来可能只有纯文本,而实际上它有一个跟踪像素。

By the way, it's not just stalkers and marketing companies that love using tracking pixels. PR people love embedding them into emails they send journalists so they can tell if the journalist is choosing to ignore them.
顺便说一句,不仅仅是喜欢使用跟踪像素的潜行者和营销公司。公关人员喜欢将它们嵌入到他们发送给记者的电子邮件中,以便他们可以判断记者是否选择忽略它们。

How to block tracking pixels

If you're sufficiently creeped out now about tracking pixels, the good news is they are relatively easy to block --- though most people don't.
如果你现在已经充分了解跟踪像素,那么好消息是它们相对容易阻止 - 尽管大多数人都没有。

Since tracking pixels work by loading remote images in an email when the receiver opens the message, you simply need to configure your email client to not load remote images by default. Doing so will ensure a tracking pixel can't send code back to the sender's server alerting them you've read their email. Here's how to block tracking pixels in the most popular email services and email clients:
由于跟踪像素通过在接收器打开消息时在电子邮件中加载远程图像来工作,因此您只需将电子邮件客户端配置为默认情况下不加载远程图像。这样做可确保跟踪像素无法将代码发送回发件人的服务器,提醒您已阅读其电子邮件。以下是如何阻止最流行的电子邮件服务和电子邮件客户端中的像素跟踪:

  • macOS Mail app: go to Mail>Preferences>Viewing and uncheck "Load remote content in messages."
  • iOS's Mail app: go to the Settings app, tap Mail, then toggle the "Load Remote Images" switch to OFF (white).
  • Gmail on the web: Log into your Gmail account, then click the Settings (cog) icon. Now click Settings. On the Settings screen under the General tab, scroll down to the Images section and make sure "Ask before displaying external images" is selected.
  • Android Gmail app: in the Gmail app, select your account, tap on Images, and then select "Ask before showing."
  • Outlook email client: Microsoft has disabled loading remote images by default --- a wise move. To make sure it's still disabled, open Outlook and choose Options > Trust Center. Under Microsoft Outlook Trust Center, click Trust Center Settings. Make sure the "Don't download pictures automatically in HTML email messages or RSS items" checkbox is not checked.

There are also a number of Chrome and Firefox browser extensions that will alert you if a tracking pixel is detected in an email you have opened in a browser window, the most popular of which is
还有一些Chrome和Firefox浏览器扩展程序会在您在浏览器窗口中打开的电子邮件中检测到跟踪像素时提醒您,其中最受欢迎的是Ugly Email.
.

One final word: While blocking remote images from loading will protect you from tracking pixels, it also means remote images won't be loaded in your emails by default. This can make emails from, for example, banks, look a bit jumbled. However, all the email services and clients listed above offer a one-click button in the email message itself that allows you to load remote images in that email only. Given this, there is no reason not to disable loading remote images by default in all your email clients to protect you from tracking pixels.
最后一句话:虽然阻止远程图像加载会阻止您跟踪像素,但这也意味着默认情况下不会在您的电子邮件中加载远程图像。这可以使来自银行的电子邮件看起来有些混乱。但是,上面列出的所有电子邮件服务和客户端都在电子邮件消息中提供了一键式按钮,允许您仅在该电子邮件中加载远程图像。鉴于此,没有理由不在所有电子邮件客户端中默认禁用加载远程图像,以防止跟踪像素。

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