All of those obnoxious marketing emails that crowd your inbox aren’t just pushing a product. They’re also tracking whether you’ve opened the email, when you opened it, and where you were at the time by using software like Mailchimp to embed tracking software into the message.
There have been some attempts to restrict the amount of information that can be transmitted this way. For example, since 2014, Google has served all images in Gmail through its own proxy servers, which could hide your location from at least some tracking applications. And extensions such as Ugly Email and PixelBlock have been developed to block trackers on Chrome and Firefox.
There is also a simple, basic step you can take to avoid trackers: stop your email from automatically loading images, since images are where the majority of these pixels hide. You won’t be able to avoid all of the trackers that can hide in your email this way, but you will stop many of them.
Here’s how to disable image autoloading in the major desktop and mobile email apps:
Microsoft Outlook (Office 365) for Windows 10
While the browser-based version of Outlook doesn’t let you stop loading images, you can make it load images through its own service. To enable that:
- Click on the gear icon in the upper-right corner to access your settings, and then click on “See all settings.”
Microsoft Outlook (Office 365) for Mac
Update July 3rd, 2019, 3:47PM ET: This article has been updated to include additional information about email clients.
- Click on “Settings” (the gear symbol in the upper-right corner). In the column that opens, click on “View all Outlook settings” at the bottom.
Update September 3rd, 2019, 7:35PM ET: This article has been updated to include directions for disabling image autoloading on Gmail for iOS.
- Click on the “Trust Center Settings” button.
Update February 17th, 2021, 5:30PM ET: Instructions for Microsoft Mail have been removed, and a few instructions have been updated.
- Go to “File” > “Preferences” > “Reading.”
Update June 11th, 2021, 8:00AM ET: Instructions for Outlook.com and Outlook for Mac have been added, and a few other instructions have been updated.
- Select “Mail” > “Preferences.”
- Click on the “Viewing” tab.
- Uncheck “Load remote content in messages.”
- Tap on the three lines in the upper-left corner.
- Scroll down and select “Settings.”
- Tap on the email account that you want to configure.
- Scroll down and select “Images.”
- Tap on “Ask before displaying external images.”