Tracking pixels, along with cookies, are just another method to track your location for the purposes of ad targeting. Tracking pixels are embedded in images. When you open an email, you automatically download that image, and that image request immediately lets the server know that you’ve opened it, along with other information like device, browser, and potentially location. Using a VPN or Tor will also help you stay anonymous from tracking pixels.
Make sure that image loading is turned off when you check your email on your laptop and phone. There are services that will notify the sender of an email when you open a message and sometimes even from where.
These services work by sending an invisible pixel that loads just like an image would. You may want to test some of these services (such as ToutApp or Yesware) to see what kinds of information they make available about people.
To turn off images in Gmail, click on the Gear icon, and then go to Settings->General->External Content. There’ll be a button that says “ask before displaying external content.” You can choose to allow or block images from specific senders.
It’s not just image loading that can give away your location, though. Checking into places on social media or registering publicly for events can do that as well. Eventbrite, Meetup, and other places may publish their guest lists publicly or make that information available to other members. Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to post your location as well, so double-check your settings. (Facebook’s Privacy Checkup can give you all sorts of information about what you’ve shared and are sharing.) You may feel comfortable publicizing this information. Just make sure you’re doing it deliberately and not signaling that your home is empty to thieves.
Check out more digital hygiene tips:
- Removing public data
- Privacy protection on domain names
- Https everywhere
- Anonymous “Tor” cloak or VPN
- Prepare for a DDos attack
- Two-step verification
- Privacy plug-ins/cookies
- Third-party permissions
- Image “hidden pixels”
- Links and attachments
- Install patches and updates
- Use a password manager/strong password
- Strengthen security questions
- Encrypt hard drive/backup data
- Click to play
- Use end-to-end encryption