Email tracking, Gmail

Anyone who grew up reading Mad Magazine remembers the comic strip “Spy vs. Spy.” If you somehow missed out on the fun, check out this video. You quickly see how the two never cease in their efforts to try and outwit each other. I couldn’t help thinking about that pair as I prepared this post, a post that talks about email tracking. This post is specifically intended for Gmail users who use Chrome as their browser of choice.

See Who Opens Your Email

You know what email you send, how do you know whether or not someone opened it? Do you work with someone whose middle name seems to be “I-didn’t-get-that-email”? If so, a little extension called Sidekick may be just what the doctor ordered.

Sidekick Gmail Chrome Email tracking

Visit the Chrome Web Store. Search for “Sidekick” and install.

Tracking Your Email

After you install Sidekick, create a new email message. You will see a small check box in the lower right-hand corner. If you want to track the email you are about to create, check the box. The “send” button will now turn orange. When the recipient opens your email, a notice appears on your screen at that moment. If they open it again, you receive another notice. If they forward your message to someone and they open it, you get a notice. One of the drawbacks is that if you send the email to multiple recipients, you do not know who opened it, but simply that someone opened it.

Sidekick Gmail tracking

Are You Being Tracked?

Perhaps someone else is using Sidekick (or a similar product) on you. Wouldn’t you like to know? Go back to the Chrome Web Store and search for “Ugly Mail.” It’s simply another extension for Chrome.

Ugly Mail Email tracking

How does it work? Take a look at this example of an email I received as it appears in the Gmail list:

Ugly Email email tracking

See the little eyeball to the left of the email subject? That icon indicates that email is being tracked.

What is Email Tracking Anyway?

Here is a good article from Wired which explains the concept and uses Ugly Mail as an example of how to tell if the email you received is being tracked. In short, the sender who is doing the tracking inserts a transparent 1 x 1 pixel image into the email. When you open the email, that image pings the server from where the email was sent.

The practice is not illegal. Tracking provides a way for email marketers to know who is reading the information they send and who is not. For you, it’s a good way to see if the important emails you send are being opened without your having to request a “read receipt.”

So, with Sidekick and/or Ugly Mail, you can be the spy…or the spy…or a little of both.