Maybe you are familiar with pixel tags. This practice is not new, and has been used for years by marketing companies and many businesses. In short, these are small images the size of a pixel in PNG or GIF format that can be found on the web, but also in the vast majority of commercial emails that you receive.
This spy pixel allows businesses obtain statistical data on the user. Indeed, the spy pixel is activated when you consult the email in question. The main advantage for the company is knowing when you opened this email, how many times, or even with what device. This allows them to deduce several pieces of information:
- If you opened the email, you are interested in its content
- Conversely, if several emails sent are not opened, the company can reduce the number of emails it will send you.
- the tracking pixel is used to identify incorrect email addresses, if the emails are never opened
Also read: The tax authorities will scrutinize your social networks, watch out for your photos!
An unfortunately legal practice
As you can see, the spy pixel offers valuable information to merchant companies, which thanks to it, can already determine whether or not you are potentially interested in their products. Note that the tracking pixel is also able to obtain the user’s IP address., and even his postal address. It has never happened to you to have a phone call from a sales representative saying ” You opened my email yesterday, but I did not get an answer, I would like to call you back… ”? The magic of the spy pixel.
If the practice is morally reprehensible, its use is perfectly legal and regulated by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003 and by the GDPR of 2016. According to the established rules, companies that use web beacons must notify you and obtain your consent. Finally, this is in the world of Care Bears, since most of them do without your consent. According to a study commissioned by the developers of the Hey application, 2/3 of the emails we receive today contain web beacons. Big names use it such as British Airways, HSBC bank or Vodafone. To protect yourself from spy pixels, there are several solutions:
- Use anti-spyware extensions like Ghostery or UglyMail
- Configure your messaging system to display text only
- Use the anti-tracking features of VPNs like the one in CyberGhost…