Google today updated its Gmail app for iOS devices with a new image blocking setting for easier access to the option designed to prevent Gmail from automatically loading attached images.
Many email tracking clients use small, invisible images as a means of tracking when an email has been opened and viewed, allowing for invasive features like read receipts.
Gmail on the desktop has long had the setting that lets images be blocked by default, but now that setting is also accessible on iOS devices for personal Gmail accounts, so it's easier for those who primarily use iOS devices to activate it. From the release notes for the latest update of Gmail:
You can now choose to be asked before external images are displayed automatically. To enable this for new incoming messages, go to Settings > specific account > Images and select Ask before displaying external images.
As The Verge points out, this appears to be a response to a recent controversy with Superhuman, an email app that allowed users to track the location of a person who opened an email as well as what time of day the email was read.
Location tracking has been removed entirely and read receipts are off by default in Superhuman following public outcry, but the issue did raise awareness about tracking features in email apps, which may have prompted Google to expand the setting to iOS devices in addition to the web.