Apple’s App Tracking Transparency allows you to choose whether to allow an app to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites for advertising or purposes. However, it doesn’t stop the tracking in your macOS Mail’s email inbox.
Unsolicited marketing emails can sometimes tell if you’ve opened their email, when you opened it, and maybe even where you were when you opened it, thanks to tracking methods employed by marketing platforms like MailChimp. (This isn’t necessarily a dig at MailChimp, as it can be a useful tool for some folks.)
The way those companies/folks send you unsolicited emails and then track them is by using a “tracking pixel” embedded in their unwanted emails.
Email Tracking Pixels
Tracking pixels are typically a GIF or PNG image file as small as 1×1 pixels that are inserted into the header, footer, or body of an email. When the message is opened in your email client, code within the pixel silently sends this information back to the company.
Think it’s not a problem? The BBC reports that most emails now contain such trackers. This information can then be used to determine the impact of a specific email campaign, as well as to feed into more detailed customer profiles. Though defenders of the trackers claim they’re a commonplace marketing tactic, Hey’s co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson says they amount to a “grotesque invasion of privacy.”
A Third-Party Solution
Hey is a company that provides a service that keeps your email private. You can try it free; however, you’ll need to pay $12/month or $99/year to continue to use the service. The following graphic is courtesy of Hey:
The macOS Solution
Apple also offers a solution, but it’s more limited in scope. In macOS in the Mail app, choose “Mail > Preferences > Viewing” and uncheck “Load remote content in messages.”
In iOS and iPadOS, go to “Settings > Mail” and disable Load Remote Images.
Once you’ve done this, the Mail app on your Macs, iPhones, and iPads will no longer load tracking pixels. If an email contains images, you’ll see a banner at the top of the screen, asking if you want to load them. This setting only blocks remote images. Any images actually attached to the email — like a friend might send you — will work as usual.