Companies are frequently using tracking tech in emails

The BBC commissioned the Hey email provider to analyze the use of invisible tracking tech that companies are including in emails that they send out.

Hey’s review resulted in uncovering the uncomfortable truth that two-thirds of emails sent to users’ personal accounts contained what is referred to as a “spy pixel.”

This “spy pixel” even made its way past spam filtering.

The analysis found that many of the largest brands are using these special email pixels.

These “spy pixels” are commonplace marketing tactics and some companies even note their use of them within their wider privacy policies.

These tracking pixels are usually in .GIF or .PNG form and can be as small as 1×1 pixels.

Typically, they’re inserted into the header or footer of the email, though they can also be in the body of the email as well.

They’re often made to be the same color as the content below them and can be impossible to spot with the naked eye.

Companies use these special pixels for a variety of tracking reasons.

They can alert senders as to if and when an email was opened, how many times it was opened, what devices the user opened the email on, and the user’s general physical location.

The users’ location is deduced from their IP address and in some cases, it is possible to pinpoint the location down to the street that the user is on.

Hey’s co-founder David Heinemeire Hansson stated that the results of the study point to a “grotesque invasion of privacy”.

In fact, a study by Princeton University has indicated that the data gathered by email “spy pixels” is sometimes linked to a users’ cookies and allows for an individual’s email address to be tied to their wider browsing habits.

As of yet, there’s not much that can be done to protect against these potentially nefarious email pixels.

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