E-mail tracking

E-mail tracking

E-mail tracking is a method for monitoring the e-mail delivery to intended recipient. Most tracking technologies utilize some form of digitally time-stamped record to reveal the exact time and date that your e-mail was received or opened, as well the IP address of the recipient.

E-mail tracking is useful when the sender wants to know if the intended recipient actually received the e-mail, or if they clicked the links. However, due to the nature of the technology, e-mail tracking cannot be considered an absolutely accurate indicator that a message was opened or read by the recipient.

Most e-mail marketing software provides tracking features, sometimes in aggregate (e.g. click-through rate), and sometimes on an individual basis.


Some e-mail applications, such as Microsoft Office Outlook, employ a read-receipt tracking mechanism. The sender selects the receipt request option prior to sending the message, and then upon sending, each recipient has the option of notifying the sender that the message was received and/or read by the recipient.

However, requesting a receipt does not guarantee that you will get one, for several reasons. Not all e-mail applications support read receipts, and users can generally disable the functionality if they so wish.

Depending on the recipient's mail client and settings, they may be forced to click a notification button before they can move on with their work. Even though it is an opt-in process, therefore, a recipient may consider it inconvenient, discourteous, or invasive.

Read receipts are sent back to your Inbox as e-mail messages. Additional technical information, such as who it is from, the e-mail software they use, and the IP address of the e-mail server is available inside the Internet headers of the read receipt.

Note that the IP address shown might not be a public IP address, and most likely will be the IP address for the Internet service provider the recipient uses for their internet e-mail service.

E-mail marketing and tracking

Some e-mail marketing tools include tracking as a feature. Such e-mail tracking is usually accomplished using standard web tracking devices known as cookies and web beacons. When you send a tracked e-mail message, whether it's a simple text message or a graphical html message, the e-mail marketing system may embed a tiny, invisible tracking image (a single-pixel gif, sometimes called a web beacon) within the content of the message. When the recipient opens the message, the tracking image is referenced. When they click a link or open an attachment, another tracking code is activated. In each case a separate tracking event is recorded by the system. These response events accumulate over time in a database, enabled the e-mail marketing software to report metrics such as open-rate and click-through rates. E-mail marketing users can view reports on both aggregate response statistics and individual response over time.

Privacy issues

E-mail tracking is used by individuals, e-mail marketers, spammers and phishers, to verify that e-mails are actually read by recipients, that email addresses are valid, and that the content of e-mails has made it past spam filters. It can sometimes reveal if e-mails get forwarded (but not usually to whom).Some companies use it at the aggregate level to help determine the effectiveness of their sales and marketing messages. Other companies use it at the individual level to better understand a customer's specific areas of interest. Many people use it to detect unauthorized forwarding and distribution of their copyrighted works and emails. When used effectively, it helps the company provide more timely, and more relevant information to the recipient. When used maliciously, it can be used to collect confidential information about businesses and individuals and to create more effective phishing schemes.

The tracking mechanisms employed are typically first-party cookies and web bugs.

If you are using e-mail tracking or e-mail marketing software, your company's privacy policy should state that you may utilize tracking devices such as cookies and web beacons.


Although it is possible to opt-out of e-mail tracking, doing so does not come without sacrifice. Within one's individual e-mail client, one can turn off image display, disable the display of links, and decline any read-receipt requests.

One should note that there are e-mail tracking services which convert the e-mail message into an image before delivering the message. One obviously cannot read the message contained in the image if image display is disabled in one's e-mail client.

HP e-mail tracking scandal

In the U.S. Congressional Inquiry investigating the
HP pretexting scandalit was revealed that HP security used an e-mail tracking service calledReadNotify.com to investigate boardroom leaks. [ [http://news.com.com/How+HP+bugged+e-mail/2100-1029_3-6121048.html How HP bugged e-mail | CNET News.com ] ] The California attorney general’s office has said that this practicewas not part of the pretexting charges. [ [http://www.cio.com/blog_view.html?CID=25624 News - CIO.com - Business Technology Leadership ] ] HP said they consider e-mail tracing to be legitimate and will continue using it. [ [http://www.pcworld.com/article/id,127444-c,onlineprivacy/article.html PC World - Business Center: Web Bugs Trained to Track Your E-Mail ] ]


External links

* [http://www.readnotify.com ReadNotify] - commercial service to add MDN/DSN requests to any MUA
* [http://www.spypig.com SPYPIG] - This is another site which would help you for the same.
* [http://www.whoreadme.com WhoReadMe] - Non-commercial Website that provides free email tracking service.

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