Counter Email Tracking
There are several occasions when people would like to know if an action email sent by them has been read by the recipients and if yes, then whether they actually took the action urged in the mail. This is especially true for PR professionals and advertisers who benefit greatly if their mail receives the right response. While a simple read receipt might be enough for a job seeker looking to ensure that his mail was read, it is by no means enough for advertisers who want to know more.
This is where Pixel Tracking comes into picture. Through programs like Bananatag, Yesware and Streak email senders can track the time when you clicked on their mail, exactly what you clicked on it and your location and the kind of device you use.
This is a lot of information and many among us would rather not share it. Ugly Mail is a program that helps you track the messages which have been tracked.
Also Read: Bananatag Brings Email Tracking to Gmail
Understanding Pixel Tracking
Pixel Tracking is the name given to the method of tracking when a person opens a mail, what they click on it and from where they do it. Such tracked emails also let the tracker know the kind of device you are using.
While all this sounds malicious, our current system does not consider pixel tracking illegal. In fact, Google endorses such tracking software and even has a support page for such trackers.
Considering the apathy shown by our so called protectors of privacy it is now upon us to ensure that emails trackers are unable to violate our privacy.
Ugly Mail: A Simple Program that Lets you Know which of your Mails are Tracked
Sonny Tulyaganov realized the underlying violation of a person’s privacy that occurs thanks to these email tracking software and came up with a solution. Ugly Mail is his response to the mail trackers, this program if installed on your computer adds an ‘evil eye’ next to any tracked messages in your Gmail account.
The program works before you click anything, thereby ensuring that you do not transmit any of your valuable information inadvertently to the sender, it is sent only if you open a mail despite the “evil eye” appended to it.
Tulyaganov states that upon learning that tracking programs like Streak had more than 300,000 users he thought of trying it out. What he found was very disturbing which is when he started his quest to outwit such programs. His was not a long or hard struggle; in fact Tulyaganov created Ugly Mail in a matter of hours after its inception.
How Ugly Mail Works
Pixel tracking is a fairly simple procedure involving an insertion of a transparent one on one image into an email. This inserted image sends back all the relevant information to the tracker whenever you open the email.
The entire process is very simple yet effective. This very simplicity has led to a solution which is just as uncomplicated yet elegant. Ugly Mail detects those messages which have such tracking pixels from Yesware, Bananatag or Streak. You can safeguard your privacy by not opening any such tracked messages.
How to Install Ugly Mail on your System
The very first requirement to installing Ugly Mail is that you have the Google Chrome browser. If you don’t have chrome can install it using this link.
Once the browser is installed click here to get to the Ugly Mail installation page in the Chrome Web Store.
There would be an ‘Add to Chrome’ button here, click on it to get the program installed and working on your device.
Limitations of Ugly Mail
Ugly Mail is a recent addition on Product Hunt and still has a long way to go before it becomes fool-proof. The biggest limitation of this program is that it works only on mails that are tracked through the 3 services we mentioned earlier i.e. Bananatag, Steak or Yesware.
There are a huge number of trackers out there and being limited to just 3 of them is not a very reassuring prospect. However, the makers of Ugly Mail have promised to increase the number of tracking services that the program detects in a periodic manner.
Another big limitation is the fact that the tracking detector is available only for Gmail on Chrome browsers. There is no provision here for those using Outlook or any other mail system, however the creators are currently working on a more versatile version of Ugly Mail that would work on Firefox and Safari browsers as well.
Ugly Mail has been marked as the most billed program on Product Hunt which should expedite any improvements scheduled on the program.
An Alternative to Ugly Mail
Ugly Mail is by no means the only program capable of identifying tracked emails in the market. PixelBlock is another such program that is capable of identifying mails that have been tracked using a tracking service.
While this program has a wider scope for identifying tracked emails from any service it ends up blocking the tracked mails altogether. The user does not get the choice of using their discretion on whether they want to open a tracked mail or not. The mail is simply blocked from the Inbox.
This can prove a little inhibitive for several users who would rather be able to see the mails which are being tracked and decide whether they want to brave the privacy intrusion by clicking on them.
Pixel Tracking is here to stay and currently we do not have any foolproof methods of outwitting our trackers. However, Ugly Mail is a start in the right direction. The program despite its limitations allows us a glimpse into the world of advertisers and promoters and the way they glean information out of us.
There are a number of other spheres where our activities are tracked, including the various web pages which we visit. While we are currently not equipped to forestall all such attempts, a beginning has definitely been made with this new entry into the market.