A sneaky tracking pixel is a tiny image embedded in emails or websites. Its purpose is to see if a user has opened any specific content, which makes its integration into emails quite common. However, it does have its pros and cons.
For example, marketers might say a tracking pixel is essential for understanding their audience. However, privacy-conscious users would feel uneasy with companies keeping tabs on their online interactions.
Tracking pixels are a controversial tool, as they can be used to collect sensitive data about users without their knowledge or consent, which can then be used for targeted advertising or other purposes that the user may not be comfortable with.
Tracking pixels and their purpose
Also known as web beacons, tracking pixels are tiny images that are embedded in emails, websites, and online ads.
When someone opens an email or visits a website, the tracking pixel downloads and records information about the user, such as their IP address, email-related activities, and other browser-related information.
This information is then sent back to the advertiser or website owner, who can use it to track the effectiveness of their campaigns or target ads to specific users.
Tracking pixels can also be used for legitimate purposes, such as measuring website traffic or understanding which emails are being opened and read.
While on one hand, marketers use them to fine-tune their approach, scammers are known to exploit these tools for more nefarious purposes. In fact, many social engineering scams use tracking pixels to collect this type of information from users.
How do scammers use tracking pixels?
When you open an email, a tiny image is automatically downloaded from the sender that notifies them that their message has been read. This allows scammers to know when their messages are being read and make it easier for them to design future emails that seem more personal and tailored to their target, increasing the chances of a response.
Scammers can also use this information to figure out when their targets are most active online and likely to be responsive, making it easier to catch them off guard. Furthermore, the information can be used to target the victim with more sophisticated scams, or even to commit identity theft.
How to prevent tracking pixels from spying on you?
If you're concerned about online privacy, you may want to take action to prevent tracking pixels from spying on you. Here are 6 things you can do:
- Use a browser extension or plugin that blocks tracking pixels
- Use a private browsing mode
- Manually delete cookies and other tracking data from your browser
- Use a Virtual Private Network to hide your location
- Use an ad blocker tool