December 11, 2023

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Stop email tracking with tools from Apple and DuckDuckGo

Stop email tracking with tools from Apple and DuckDuckGo

I subscribe to a lot of newsletters. I read most of them too. But its authors wouldn’t know because I disabled trackers that detect and tell senders when subscribers open their emails. It is not personal; I just don’t want anyone to know what I read, when, how often I read it, which device I read it on, and even where I was when I read it. What about you?

Oh, didn’t you know it’s possible for email senders to find out all that about you just because you clicked “open”? He. She MuchAnd the happens a lot – In newsletters and marketing emails in particular. But trackers aren’t limited to them. Anyone can sneak a tracker into your email; Services that do this plentiful and free. If you’re the type to turn off read receipts on text and direct messages, this probably isn’t good news to read.

While it’s intimidating to think of keeping track of your email reading habits, that’s not the only reason you should consider taking some extra steps to protect your email. Your email address has become one The best and most stable IDs, data brokers and marketers will match what you do with it in one place with what you use it for in others. This helps them create a more comprehensive profile than ever before of your online (and offline) life. You might be fine with receiving emails from the store you gave your address to, or even from that store to see if you opened their emails. You may not do well with a bunch of other companies that you have nothing to do with knowing them either. But that’s exactly what happens.

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There is also the safety factor. Emails are being leaked in data breaches All the timeAnd there’s a lot a designer hacker can do with your email address, especially since email addresses often double as logins. If the company doesn’t have your real email address, you don’t have to worry about getting there if (or, really, whenThat company was hacked.

The good news is that there are ways to better protect your email privacy. New one just dropped: DuckDuckGo and privacy first Search engine provider, just opened Email Protection Service after a year of beta testing. Apple, Firefox, and Proton have similar offerings, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are some of the services and ways to make your email more private and why you should consider using them. These are not the only companies offering these services, but each has a reputation for protecting the privacy of their users. In some cases, this is their mission statement.

Hide your email address

One of the best ways to protect your email privacy is also one of the most obvious: Don’t give out your email address in the first place. But email addresses are valuable, so companies will do everything they can to get them. Maybe they’ll ask you to give them your email address if you want to order anything, or they’ll hang out in front of you with a nice discount for it.

One solution is to use a service that gives you an alias email address, which forwards messages to the inbox of your choice. This way, you can have all the emails (and coupons) in your real inbox without the senders knowing your real address.

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Perhaps the most famous example is:Hide my emailI’m using this, so I can tell you it works as promised. I get unlimited aliases and use a different name everywhere. But, as with everything Apple, it works better within the Apple ecosystem than it does. If you’re signed in to your iCloud account, using an Apple device, going through Apple’s Safari browser, or using Sign in with Apple, then Hide My Email will appear as an option in the email prompts. Creating and entering your fake email address is as easy as entering your real email address.

But if you are using a non-Apple product or service, the process becomes more time consuming and annoying. Another drawback is that it costs money. You must have an iCloud+ account, which starts at 99 cents per month and includes other things, like expanded cloud storage. So while Hide My Email is a good feature for some, it probably won’t be the best option for everyone.

DuckDuckGo Email Protection makes it easy to create fake email addresses.

DuckDuckGo’s email protection, on the other hand, is free. It is available in most web browsers if you install the DuckDuckGo extension, which you can get through the DuckDuckGo website or your browser extension store (the notable exception is Safari, although DuckDuckGo says this is in the works). After that, it will automatically appear as an option when there is an email prompt, similar to Hide My Mail. You can have as many aliases as you want, the setup is simple, and it has some other features which I will introduce later.

There is, too Firefox tracks, which has a free and paid option. The free version only gives you 5 aliases, while the paid tier has unlimited titles. It’s 99 cents a month, though Firefox says the price point will only be available for a limited time. Also, the browser extension that you will need to use Relay is not easily available in emails in all browsers. Finally, you must have or create a Firefox account to use it. This is easy enough, but it’s also an extra step you might not want to take when signing up for a service that’s supposed to help you avoid giving away your data while setting up accounts.

Finally, Proton – which is famous for its encrypted email service – Apply now The ability to create alias email addresses with paid Proton Mail plans, which start at $3.99 per month. The cheapest option only gives you 10 aliases, however, if you plan on using a different email for everything, that won’t be enough.

If you don’t want to bother going through an alias service, you can always create your own alternate account on whatever email provider you use and put that aside for all the things you don’t want to give your real email address for. It will reduce the amount of junk email you get in your real inbox, but if you use that email address enough times in enough places, it will become identifiable to you just like your real email address.

Block those trackers

Whether you give your real email address or go through an alias, you may not want email senders to know if and when you read their messages. they can Learn a lot about you only from it. This tracking happens through very small images – pixels, basically – that are embedded in the email. When you open the email, it makes a call to the server the image is hosted on, which tells the tracking service that you opened the email, how many times you opened it, when you opened it, some information about the device you used to open it, and maybe even your IP address (cut off many of my providers This email service; for example, Gmail routes image requests through its servers, masking your IP address).

Some of the same companies that offer email aliases also have tracking blocking services. Apple introduced tracking blocking, Mail Privacy Protection, last year with iOS15. The good news is that Mail Privacy Protection is free and easy to enable—either you get a prompt the first time you open Mail asking if you want to turn it on, or it’s about finding it in your settings. The bad news is that it only works in the Apple Mail app.

Proton Mail Service Enable tracker protection By default and available in both free and paid levels. It will tell you which trackers it has blocked and who they are from, giving you a chance to spy on companies spying on you. But Tracker Protection is only available on the Proton website. Proton says it will be coming to the mobile app soon.

DuckDuckGo’s email protection service is not associated with any single company or operating system. Detects and filters trackers before they make their way to your (real) inbox. It also removes trackers from the links that contain emails, and will let you know if the email contains trackers and who those are. Just to give you an idea of ​​how prevalent these trackers are: DuckDuckGo says about 85 percent of emails that went through its new service during the beta phase of email protection contain trackers.

The free and premium levels of Firefox Relay also remove trackers. Note that both DuckDuckGo and Firefox options only remove trackers from emails that you pass through; Any emails received through the alternate email addresses you created with their services. They do not remove trackers from emails that go directly to your real email address.

Finally, you can always go the DIY route by going into the email settings and making sure that you have chosen not to download images automatically. In Gmail, for example, you can do this by going to Settings > general > Pictures > Ask before viewing external photos. The downside to this method is that your emails can look like a sea of ​​broken image codes, since you are not only blocking trackers, but all externally hosted images, even if they are completely harmless.

One final note: while these services and technologies will certainly protect your privacy to some extent, nothing is guaranteed. If there is any identifying information attached to your alias email address – perhaps you set up an account with it and then ask for something to be delivered to your real physical address using your real name – it should not be difficult for the data broker to match it back to you. While tracking prevention tools are effective, there is always a chance that marketers and the tracking services they use will otherwise come to track you through your emails. Then we’ll start the whole process of figuring out how to block those trackers again.