Did you know that marketers (and even hackers) can use images to track you in your email inbox?

Here's how so-called tracking pixels work:

  1. Someone creates an image and host it on their server. Often a transparent 1x1 "tracking pixel" that you don't even see.
  2. They send you an email that includes that image.
  3. When you open their email, their image automatically loads. It sends a ton of information back to their server. This includes your IP address, which they can use to identify you and find out where you are in the world.

Sounds scary, right? And yet this is incredibly common.

As someone who runs a weekly newsletter with 4 million recipients each week, I refuse to use tracking pixels. (I send my emails as plain text.)

But people like me are in the minority. Most companies do use tracking pixels. And most email marketing tools make it easy for marketers to include tracking pixels in email blasts.

Well, you're in luck. There's an easy way to stop these tracking pixels and preserve your privacy. All you have to do is turn off images by default in your inbox.

(Don't worry – you can still click a button to load images you receive from trusted friends and family.)

How to Turn Off All Images in Gmail by Default

There's an option right in Gmail's settings to turn off images by default. You can get there by using this direct link to settings in gmail.

Select the "Ask before displaying external images" radio button and click the save settings button below.

Here's what your emails will now look like if they contain images:

An email with external images disabled

And if you click the "display images below" link, this is what the email will look like afterward, with its images showing:

The same image with external images re-enabled

There you go. You no longer have to worry about opening an email and alerting the sender to your IP address and other sensitive information.

This also stops those annoying "MailTrack" services that marketers use to see whether you've opened their email so they can know when to email you again.

This is an important step you can take in just one minute to reclaim part of your privacy online.

I hope this article helps. From all of us at freeCodeCamp.org, stay safe out there.