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BA marketing emails allegedly contain spy pixels

BA marketing emails allegedly contain spy pixels

Old Feb 17, 21, 6:35 am
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BA marketing emails allegedly contain spy pixels

I read this item on the BBC news website this morning. If this is true, should we be concerned?


The use of "invisible" tracking tech in emails is now "endemic", according to a messaging service that analysed its traffic at the BBC's request. Hey's review indicated that two-thirds of emails sent to its users' personal accounts contained a "spy pixel", even after excluding for spam. Its makers said that many of the largest brands used email pixels, with the exception of the "big tech" firms.
Emails pixels can be used to log:
* if and when an email is opened
* how many times it is opened
* what device or devices are involved
* the user's rough physical location, deduced from their internet protocol (IP) address - in some cases making it possible to see the street the recipient is on
British Airways, TalkTalk, Vodafone, Sainsbury's, Tesco, HSBC, Marks & Spencer, Asos and Unilever are among UK brands Hey detected to be using them.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 6:45 am
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Gmail for example caches all images, so they would only be loaded once by the renderer when the email hits the inbox. But if you use a desktop client (Outlook being the dominant amongst others), then yes it is most likely the case that BA know if, when, and how many times you opened the email. Most newsletter providers do this, they harvest a treasure trove of data out of this, and it is their bread and butter.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 6:46 am
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Originally Posted by Prospero View Post
I read this item on the BBC news website this morning. If this is true, should we be concerned?
Shouldn't we all already have been assuming that all marketing emails contain tracking pixels, and acting accordingly? Surely this has been a concern for, what, a decade or more now? AIUI what's being reported, it's not a new technique, and my main surprise was seeing it being reported as if it were something new or newly-discovered.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 6:52 am
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I use an email client on my Mac (Postbox) that prevents the loading of all images unless I actively permit it for individual messages.

Having said that, I'm not overly concerned about it.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 6:59 am
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Originally Posted by Prospero View Post
If this is true, should we be concerned?
Bolt. Horse. Stable. After.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:01 am
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It seems the report is a sales pitch for "Hey!". Very lazy journalism. Most email clients allow blocking of graphic loading, and any graphic link can be used to track back, not just the alarmingly named "spy pixels".

If the data is used for anything other than aggregated data on responses to campaigns, it should show up in a data subject request. It doesn't, at least not in the detailed one I had last year.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:09 am
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I imagine this is nothing new and mostly been happening for a decade or more. I imagine we are all too far down the path to know what’s happened and god knows how you would go about unraveling it.

If you had an email address and been using the internet for 10+ years, we are all long down a path that I dread to think has uncovered about each and every one of us and passed on. Spy pixels seem a little dramatic!

Privacy is a hot topic so I guess the story is relevant and Apples stance on it and ad tracking is opening up the conversation about this. Which is a positive. Awareness is a positive and if it leads to change then great.

Hopefully BA have and are learning serious lessons about user privacy.

Otherwise Carry On emailing.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:23 am
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Originally Posted by Prospero View Post
I read this item on the BBC news website this morning. If this is true, should we be concerned?
No. At is most basic level it will be used to split test different subject lines to see which version got the most opens. A few more steps advanced and it could be used to see what device you usually open emails on and use templates with a better experience for your device. Or see what time of day you usually open your emails and send it then. Or send you a followup email if you didn't click on a link in an email you previously opened. And even if they could see street level data of where you opened the email (which in 99% of case they couldn't) - BA already have your address, passport number and so on!

They should not be treated the same as trackers which follow you around different websites to profile you in order to serve targeted ads. I feel that 'spy pixel' is an unfair term. The whole article reads like a PR for the Hey! email service (which itself is nothing to write home about).
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:36 am
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I’d remove “allegedly” from the thread title.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:50 am
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I've been using much of the search engines, browser extensions, and other products mentioned in the following article. And I have been using them for several years.


There are other things you can do as well. Like not use a MS email product. I used to use Outlook for work but since I've retired I no longer even have it installed.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:54 am
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Not sure why anyone would really care anyway? Why would I care if someone who has sent me a product information e-mail knows whether I have opened it, whether I have read it or if I have forwarded it? Far more important things happening in the world to bother about IMHO
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Old Feb 17, 21, 7:59 am
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I you don’t use an ad blocker on your browser(s) I wouldn’t worry too much about “spy pixels” in your emails either.

Seems like something about nothing to me.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 8:55 am
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I have my email clients set up to not display pictures unless I actively request them. Mostly it makes loading and displaying things faster and I have to look at less noise. It also prevents BA (and others) from tracking me.

But if you find the idea of BA monitoring when/how you read their emails worrying, then I recommend you open any website in Chrome and open the developer tools. The number of server connections that happen in the background when you open any website is pretty astonishing.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 9:05 am
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This has been going on since litterally 2000ish. No idea why it’s suddenly news now.

It’s a crucial element of digital marketing that without will only see a massive increase in spam and messages you don’t want.
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Old Feb 17, 21, 10:25 am
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Originally Posted by Cap'n Benj View Post
This has been going on since litterally 2000ish. No idea why it’s suddenly news now.
I think I may have an answer -

Hey is a premium email service launched by Basecamp in June 2020.
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