On mail tracking rak A

Found at: republic.circumlunar.space:70/~rak/phlog/2019-11-16-On-email-tracking.txt

2019-11-16: On e-mail tracking                              rak

A few years ago, I took out a subscription to The New Yorker for
a few months. They continued sending me newsletter e-mails long
after I cancelled my subscription. I reprioritized my time and
started ignoring these emails too. Not too long ago, they sent
me an e-mail, writing:

    We noticed that you haven’t opened a newsletter from
    The New Yorker in a while. Do you still want e-mails
    from us?

What I find most interesting about these two sentences is that
tracking has become pervasive that trackers feel like they can
speak openly about it. Content producers and corporations have
been embedding web beacons in their e-mails for well over a
decade, but it always felt like a dirty secret. What changed?
Have recipients, the tracked, become so indifferent to tracking
that it is now socially acceptable?

It has become quasi-impossible to escape tracking. Even if you
use a text-based e-mail client and don't fetch images for HTML
e-mails, links are still wrapped in click trackers. Consider,
for example, the the link in the following excerpt of an e-mail:

    Points are calculated depending on the number of competitors
    registered in the contest, as well as a competitors'
    placing. Ties were broken as per the rules set out in the
    PPBSO Rule Book

Let's make a few educated guesses about the query string
embedded in this URL. Some parts are consistent across all
e-mails I receive from the PPBSO. Presumably


uniquely identifies me as a recipient. If I had to venture a
guess, some data is collected about me when I click the above
link. The component "e=0f905d2e70" presumably refers to the
e-mailer. The only part that varies is the string
"id=d52ce62477", which presumably captures that the above URL
should redirect to the PPBSO Rule Book [0].

I understand that Mailchimp probably provides a low-effort
mailing list solution. But do senders believe that their
recipients want to be tracked? (I suspect the answer is that
most recipients do not care.) More generally, do senders even
think about the implications of tracking their recipients? It
isn't just the PPBSO that uses click tracking in its emails: I
would guess that at least 3/4 of the mass emails I receive use
some kind of tracking.

What can we do, short of retreating from the wider Internet, to
avoid being tracked?

[0] http://ppbso.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/PPBSO-RULE-BOOK-2018.pdf