Originally published at: http://www.howtogeek.com/178239/how-to-turn-off-gmails-automatic-image-loading-for-increased-privacy-and-speedier-loading/
This month Gmail rolled out a new feature: after years of setting images to load only when prompted, they now load automatically. That might seem like a convenient feature, but it also means that image-based trackers from marketers load automatically and mobile email slows down as chunky in-text images load. Read on as we show you how to turn it off.
I believe that images are now cached on a Google-owned image server, meaning that the marketers won't be able to use the image opening for any of the information purposes mentioned here. It's one of the reasons they felt it was okay to then change the default to images loading automatically.
jgillperson is correct making this article pretty inaccurate. This was made very clear when they announced the new feature on Dec 12. Here is exactly what they are doing:
How Gmail makes images safe
Some senders try to use externally linked images in harmful ways, but Gmail takes action to ensure that images are loaded safely. Gmail serves all images through Google’s image proxy servers and transcodes them before delivery to protect you in the following ways:
Senders can’t use image loading to get information like your IP address or location.
Senders can’t set or read cookies in your browser.
Gmail checks your images for known viruses or malware.
In some cases, senders may be able to know whether an individual has opened a message with unique image links. As always, Gmail scans every message for suspicious content and if Gmail considers a sender or message potentially suspicious, images won’t be displayed and you’ll be asked whether you want to see the images.
Actually, the article is correct. Did you even read the bit you cut+paste from the announcement? Here I'll highlight the important part:
That's what is being discussed when the article says "image-based trackers from marketers load automatically"
Fair enough, in some cases they may be able to track you opening an email, that is if google doesn't automatically download all images before you open the email anyways making their data useless. However the article is clearly saying that they will be able to track much more than that. They will not be able to track IP, location, cookies, browser and so on.
Why Should I Care?
One the side effects of Gmail’s automatic image loading policy that might not be readily apparent to the end user is that marketers (and anyone, for that matter) can now embed tracking images in emails that monitor if and when you open the mail and how many times you open the email. Further, those images are served up via HTTP (they’re hosted on a web server, not actually contained in the email itself) which means the person/company that sent the email can also glean a wide variety of information about you from those requests (such as IP address and rough geographic location, information about your web browser, etc.) as well as access to any cookies related to that site (so they know if you’ve previously visited).
Yeah, they can't track your IP location directly from an email, but that's really not very useful anyway, since anybody that has actually signed up for or interacted with an email has been to a site that an email marketer is controlling. So they can easily get your location, set cookies, and do anything else they need to do.
The only thing that an email marketer actually cares about is whether you open an email, and since the image pixel links for each user are unique, this shouldn't change that.
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