[WARNING] An email is not just an email

If you think browsing the web is invasive wait till you read this. Your internet activity is nothing compared to data collected via emails. Really nothing. And you don’t know about it unless you work for a CRM company or you are yourself tracking emails.

The real problem about privacy is awareness. We have very little visibility about what data is being tracked, recorded, archived, sold or exploited. Unconsciously we want to believe that loss of privacy is for the greater good. And what do we have to hide?

Last week I came across a fantastic quote from Snowden “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

That sums it up pretty well from the most controversial guy when it comes to privacy. He really nailed the situation in one sentence.

Tim Cook made a vibrant speech against Google and Facebook during Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) Champions of Freedom event in Washington. But let me tell you — defenders are the biggest offenders. We will come to that point in a few.

Emails do tell a lot. Each time you read an email, sender collects data. First he knows you opened the email. Annoying. Second he knows where you are. Third he gets your full configuration — mobile or desktop, iOS or Android, Safari or Chrome and much more. Sender also knows if you forwarded the email, and where the email was to. Please note this happens upon opening the email. Not when you reply but just by opening the notification. Paradoxically I have zero information on your location when calling you, same if I text you but yet I have everything by just sending you an email with a catchy subject line.

Tons of free or paying tools are offering email-tracking services such as Bananatag, RelateIQ, Yesware and many more. Below a Bananatag screenshot detailing tracking details after sending an email.

Recipient didn’t respond to the email but yet I have all the information I need. Email was received and was open several times. Each opening triggers an event. The email was also forwarded to someone in New York. Precious data collected in total anonymity.

In terms of CRM for business development it’s the ultimate killer feature but in terms of privacy it’s the most invasive, opaque process to track users. Unlike browsing collected data, here the information is directly connected to an individual and trackers are invisible.

Sadly there is very little one can do to stop this blatant breach of privacy. A few browser extensions claim to be able to solve the problem but actually they are unreliable.

So next time you get an email, assume your email is tracked. Data harvested by senders. For my part I will not use trackers on my emails ever again. That’s my little contribution towards protecting your privacy.

Oh, and Tim Cook — our new privacy activist- should know Apple tracks ALL their emails. From marketing material to support tickets. So much for “being different”.