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December 2, 2023

How to Block Tracking Pixels in Apple Mail

Today’s technology makes email tracking very easy. Amazingly detailed information is sent back to that company or person to further their marketing efforts through something called “tracking pixels.” We’ll show you how to block them in Apple Mail.

What are tracking pixels?

Tracking pixels do what they say on the box: they are pixels embedded in the body of an email that track your activity. They can be part of an image, but sometimes they are part of a link or invisible to the naked eye.

When you open an email that contains a tracking pixel, the code written in that pixel relays the information to the sender. This can include whether the email was opened, what you clicked on, and even where you were when you opened it.

An article by Karissa Bell for Mashable explains how an email marketing company called SendGrid uses tracking pixels. Its software version is called Open Tracking:

“Open Tracking adds an invisible one-pixel image at the end of the email that can track the opening of emails. If the email recipient has images enabled on their email client and a request to the SendGrid server for the invisible image is executed, then an open event is logged.

Anyone using this software can tell not only that you opened their email, but also how often you opened it since an “open event” is recorded each time you do so.

How you can block them

Fortunately, there are several ways to block email tracking pixels. A few of them became available with the iOS 15 and OS Monterey rollouts. Whether you’re using an iPad, iPhone, or Mac computer, these updates will make it easy to block email trackers.

Apple describes the feature, called Mail Privacy Protection, like this:

“When you receive an email in the Mail app, rather than downloading remote content when you open an email, Mail Privacy Protection by default downloads remote content in the background, regardless of how you whether or not you interact with the email Apple does not learn any information about the content.

The feature also routes remote content downloaded through Mail through a proxy server to prevent the sender of an email from obtaining your IP address, which may indicate your location. A proxy IP address for your zone will be shown to the sender, so they can see the general zone, but not your machine’s IP address.

To enable this feature when using a mobile device with iOS or iPadOS 15 or later:

  1. Go to Settings > Mail.
  2. Tap Privacy Protection
  3. Enable Mail Activity Protection

If you are on a Mac computer:

  1. Open the Mail app
  2. Go to Preferences
  3. Click on Privacy
  4. Enable Mail Activity Protection

Check the box to protect email activity

Apple says this method will allow users to read their emails normally without blocking images because it loads all email content privately in the background and routes it through proxy servers.

What if I don’t have iOS 15 or Monterey or higher?

If you don’t have the latest update yet, or if you’re using a computer that’s too old to download Monterey or higher, there are other ways to block email tracking.

If you are on a Mac computer:

  1. Go to Settings > Mail
  2. Disable remote image loading

Uncheck the "Load remote content" option

For iOS devices:

  1. Go to Mail > Preferences > Display
  2. Uncheck Load remote content in messages

Disable "Load remote images" in iOS or iPadOS

Since tracking pixels are usually embedded in an image or are tiny invisible images themselves, this will probably be enough to stop them.

If you’re tired of iPhone apps asking to track your activity, you can set an automatic “No” response to further protect your privacy.

RELATED: How to Stop iPhone Apps from Asking to Track Your Activity

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