Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature is designed to allow users to opt out of the surreptitious tracking that third-party apps have traditionally relied on for ad targeting purposes. But tracking can go on in your email inbox, too.

mail ios app icon
Unsolicited marketing emails will sometimes know whether you've opened their email, and if so, when you did so. They can even know where you were at the time, thanks to tracking methods employed by marketing platforms like MailChimp.

The way they track is very discreet and kind of creepy. Embedded in the email will be a tracking pixel, often hidden within a signature image or a link. When the message is opened in your email client, code within the pixel silently sends this information back to the company.

Some email account providers attempt to limit this sort of tracking by routing images through proxy servers, for example, which hides your location. But there's actually a simple way of preventing tracking pixels altogether, and that's by disabling the automatic loading of images in your email client.

The following steps show you how to disable automatic image loading in Apple Mail for macOS, and below them, you'll find instructions to do the same in iOS.

  1. Launch Apple Mail.
  2. Select Mail -> Preferences from the menu bar.
    mail

  3. Click the Viewing tab.
  4. Uncheck the box next to Load remote content in messages.
    mail

If you're using Mail for iPhone or iPad, you can find the same setting in the Settings app. Tap Mail, look under "Messages," and turn off the toggle next to Load Remote Images.

Top Rated Comments

CarlJ Avatar
6 weeks ago

The way they track is very discreet and kind of creepy. Embedded in the email will be a tracking pixel, often hidden within a signature image or a link. When the message is opened in your email client, code within the pixel silently sends this information back to the company.
WTF? Tracking images are creepy, but let's not pretend they're magical, because they're not. You get an email. It's full of HTML, because nobody does plain text email any more (sigh). Because it's HTML, it can specify images to load. One of them is an image on the sender's server (eh, probably all of them are images on the sender's server - that's how the web works). The act of requesting that image from the remote server leaves a log entry in the remote server (which is how the web has always worked). If they gave the pixel image a name that's unique to you (not your name, just a random number they've associated with you), then they can infer, because that image was requested from the server, that you requested it (by opening the email), and they know when, because the server logs when it fulfills requests, and by looking the requesting IP address up in a geolocation database, they can get an approximate location. But you make it sound like the pixel image itself is actively transmitting information - it's not - there's no "code within the pixel", it's just an image.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonblatho Avatar
6 weeks ago
There’s an even better way ('https://github.com/apparition47/MailTrackerBlocker') for macOS that blocks trackers while still allowing you to view images.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Blkant Avatar
6 weeks ago
I’ll take articles like this over Memoji news or wristband showcases any day. It would be nice if we could filter a lot of the later articles out for a more Mac|iPhone|privacy (or just less fluff) focused experience.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
trigf Avatar
6 weeks ago
I enabled this last year when an Audi dealership insisted that they replied to me but really hadn't. The sales rep sent a screenshot of every interaction I had with their messages and it creeped me out.

This is also how marketing firms track their reach, so even more reason to enable this.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mick-Mac Avatar
6 weeks ago

I used a unique email address for each service I sign up for that way if I start getting spam I can block that email address.
The vast majority of users out there tearing their hair out over the 10:1 spam vs real emails they get would have no idea how to do this. There needs to be a vastly better and easier way to do this (including jail sentences, huge fines, public floggings, sterilization, or any/all of the usual Medieval tortures for spammers). I would gladly live in a world where each email or text I sent cost me a small fee if it meant spammers couldn't afford to do what they do.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chinch07 Avatar
6 weeks ago

I enabled this last year when an Audi dealership insisted that they replied to me but really hadn't. The sales rep sent a screenshot of every interaction I had with their messages and it creeped me out.

This is also how marketing firms track their reach, so even more reason to enable this.
I’ve worked at a marketing firm for 6 years now and could not be more of an advocate for less tracking. It’s creepy what we do
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Top Stories 63 Feature

Top Stories: Beats Studio Buds Announced, Apple Watch Series 7 Rumors, and More

Saturday June 19, 2021 6:00 am PDT by
The Apple news cycle started to move beyond WWDC this week, but that doesn't mean there still wasn't a lot to talk about, led by the official debut of the much-leaked Beats Studio Buds that might give us a hint of what to expect for the second-generation AirPods Pro. With no hardware announcements at WWDC, we also took a look at when we might finally see the long-rumored redesigned MacBook...
ios wifi settings

iOS Bug Causes Specific Network Name to Disable Wi-Fi on iPhones

Sunday June 20, 2021 4:15 am PDT by
A wireless network naming bug has been discovered in iOS that effectively disables an iPhone's ability to connect to Wi-Fi. Security researcher Carl Schou found that after joining a Wi-Fi network with the name "%p%s%s%s%s%n" his iPhone's Wi-Fi functionality was left "permanently disabled." Changing a hotspot's SSID did nothing to correct the problem, with even a reboot failing to make a...
macbook air orange

Apple Developing a Whole New Kind of MacBook Air

Monday June 21, 2021 2:15 am PDT by
Apple is believed to be working on a completely new, high-end version of the MacBook Air, according to recent reports. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, has repeatedly discussed the company's work on a high-end MacBook Air. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and leaker Jon Prosser have also referred to a similar MacBook Air model. The high-end...
YouTube Picture in Picture Feature

YouTube Says iOS Picture-in-Picture Coming to All US Users

Friday June 18, 2021 9:41 am PDT by
After a long wait, YouTube for iOS is officially gaining picture-in-picture support, allowing all users, non-premium and premium subscribers, to close the YouTube app and continue watching their video in a small pop-up window. In a statement to MacRumors, YouTube says that picture-in-picture is currently rolling out to all premium subscribers on iOS and that a larger rollout to all US iOS...
maxresdefault

Video: 20 Annoyances Apple Fixed in iOS 15 and macOS Monterey

Friday June 18, 2021 11:36 am PDT by
With iOS 15 and macOS Monterey, Apple is adding several quality of life improvements, which are designed to address some of the complaints that people have had with these operating systems for years now. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. In our latest YouTube video, we're highlighting some of our favorite "fix" features that address long-running problems in iOS and...
iOS 15 Users Underwhelmed Feature

Users Underwhelmed by iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, Survey Suggests

Monday June 21, 2021 7:17 am PDT by
Users appear to be underwhelmed by Apple's upcoming iOS 15 and iPadOS 15 updates, according to the findings of a new survey by SellCell. The survey asked 3,000 iPhone and iPad users, evenly split between men and women, aged 18 or over in the United States, what they thought of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and the naming of the upcoming iPhone 13 lineup. Over 50 percent of all of the survey's...
purple iphone 12 and 12 mini

iPhone 12 Mini Production Reportedly Ended Earlier Than Expected Due to Relatively Low Sales

Monday June 21, 2021 7:07 am PDT by
Following widespread reports that the iPhone 12 mini has experienced poor sales performance, at least relative to other iPhone 12 models, Taiwanese research firm TrendForce today claimed that production of the device has already ended. According to TrendForce, the iPhone 12 mini "reached End-of-Life ahead of time" during the second quarter of 2021, suggesting that Apple will focus on selling ...
primeday2020 feature3

Amazon Prime Day: The Best Apple Deals

Monday June 21, 2021 6:15 am PDT by
Amazon's annual Prime Day event has officially kicked off today, beginning 48 hours of discounts, offers, and tons of savings across Amazon's storefront. This includes everything from home electronics to clothing, jewelry, video games, movies, and much more. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment,...
16 inch macbook pro m2 render

When Can We Expect the Redesigned MacBook Pros Now?

Wednesday June 16, 2021 7:11 am PDT by
With no sign of redesigned MacBook Pro models at this year's WWDC, when can customers expect the much-anticipated new models to launch? A number of reports, including investor notes from Morgan Stanley and Wedbush analysts, claimed that new MacBook Pro models would be coming during this year's WWDC. This did not happen, much to the disappointment of MacBook Pro fans, who have been...
space gray magic accessories trio

Apple Stops Selling Magic Accessories in Space Gray

Friday June 18, 2021 9:16 am PDT by
Apple this week stopped selling its Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad, Magic Mouse 2, and Magic Trackpad 2 accessories for the Mac in a Space Gray color, around three months after discontinuing the iMac Pro, which also came in Space Gray. Last month, Apple listed the Space Gray accessories as available while supplies last, and the company has now removed the product pages from its website...