Pixel tracking (or tracking pixel) is a digital marketing tool that allows the sender to find out when and if the email has been opened using a single-pixel image hidden in an email. That’s why it could be a risk to our online privacy.
Businesses can track an email when and where it was opened. They can also follow from which device was used to read the message – all of which is possible using a technique known as pixel tracking or pixel tracking (in some cases is also known as a tracking code).
It is used mainly for marketing purposes. The pixel tracking technique made a comeback after the email provider analyzing the network traffic of its users.
It is found that two-thirds of the messages they received contained tracking pixels that have enabled companies to become aware of any personal data belonging to those who have opened the email, including the IP address and geographic location.
But also how long it took to read the emails and how often users went back to reading the “tracker” messages again.
With a blatant violation of privacy, a user finds himself sharing personal data without his knowledge with the simple opening of the email.
Not to mention that cybercriminals also use the pixel tracking technique to trick their potential victims online.
What is Pixel Tracking, and how it works
Pixel tracking is, therefore, a sneaky hidden trick that allows you to monitor email using snooping methods.
This type of “intrusion” allows you to intercept data and information transmitted between two remote stations (typically, the server that sent the email and the customer who received it).
To do this, a tracking pixel is used (also called one × 1 pixel or a pixel tag), which is nothing but an image with a size of 1 × 1 pixel that is loaded when a user visits a web page. Or open an email.
More precisely, within the email message, there is a link to a one-pixel image downloaded from the server that sent the email when the user opens the message.
As soon as the server receives a request to download the image, whoever sent the “tracked” email message can know the IP address of the device that made the request, the type of device, and the operating system used, in addition to the user’s geographical location.
It is so small that pixel email recipients can hardly see pixel tracking because they are typically transparent or the same background color used in the email message.
Why is Pixel Track used?
Using tracking pixels is beneficial for website operators, SEOs, and email senders. This is because they can use the information generated to improve their online offers, make them more user-friendly, and adapt the recommendations to the most commonly used browser types and versions.
It then becomes possible to distinguish between users and bots, as well as create user profiles. The IP address, visits of a particular user, and user properties can generate navigation paths.
For web analytics, however, the tracking pixel generally forms only the basis. Advanced technologies are needed. Specialized service providers can only implement that.
The pixel tracking technique can also be proper in analyzing newsletters sent by email because they show the open rates of certain emails or newsletters through user statistics data.
Together with A / B tests, it is then possible to determine the successful campaigns. From the recipient’s point of view, this has the advantage that newsletters in the future can be designed to be more relevant and exciting.
Countermeasures for users
Several measures allow you to defend yourself from pixel tracking and that prevent the collection of your data through the use of this tracking technique:
- set your browser and email settings as restrictive as possible, so external graphics are only supported after permission, and HTML emails are not kept. Appropriate firewall settings can also be used for this;
- install browser extensions that make tracking pixels visible;
- activate anonymous browsing through the use of TOR Browser or proxy servers that allow you to prevent the download of tracking pixels;
- To prevent the collection of additional user data such as the type of browser or the operating system, it is possible to disable the support of scripts in the browser: in this case, however, it must be borne in mind that this particular configuration could limit other functions on the Internet in certain circumstances.