Recently we pulled our open notification feature on Pingly. This feature allowed you to see when an email you sent through Pingly was opened. It did not disclose IP or location, which was purged from our system upon receiving it.

I've seen conversations around email tracking pop up frequently online over the past year. I've read points of view from both sides of the argument and I've come to the conclusion that it's time for email tracking to end.

A quick primer on how email tracking works: generally a transparent 1x1 pixel image is embedded somewhere in an HTML email. When the email is opened, the browser loads the invisible image and sends the user's IP address, location (which can be derived from the IP) and browser information.

Outlined below are the reasons against email tracking: Privacy, Technical and Legal.

Privacy

First and foremost is privacy. Online privacy has come to the forefront of the conversation and over the past decade, people have become aware of the amount of data that is being tracked about them.

Unlike read receipts in many popular messaging apps, which can be disabled by the recipient, email open tracking is not configurable by the receiving end. And unlike a website which a person decides to visit, email is sent into your inbox.

It boils down to this: it's really no one's business if you open the email they sent you and is the main reason why we pulled it from Pingly.

Technical

With the explosion of ad-blockers and browsers with built-in blocking, email tracking is becoming increasingly broken. I recently switched my browser from Chrome to Brave and was pleasantly surprised that it automatically blocked several tracking pixels while I was checking one of my other email accounts.

Also, we recently implemented a proxy for all images in emails sent to Pingly, which protects a user's IP, location and browser data from being tracked. This prevents your information from being leaked by just opening an email. We also cache the images so that subsequent open notifications are not sent when an email is opened.

Because of the above, email tracking is becoming either blocked or the data is obfuscated.

Consumer privacy protection laws like GDPR in the EU and CCPA in California have created legal protections for consumers against tracking and sharing of their data. IANAL (I am not a lawyer), but my understanding is that email tracking where IP and location are being tracked or shared is a violation of GDPR/CCPA.


I'll be honest I don't like removing features, but why hold onto something that goes against a person's privacy and is becoming increasingly broken?

Feel free to email me at noah@pingly.com if you have any questions or input.