The Swiss postal service ProtonMail has introduced a new security feature called Tracking Protection. The feature aims to protect users from tracking attempts, blocks tracking and shows what has been blocked. The new feature is now available to everyone ProtonMail Users already available through the service’s web interface. The new tracking protection is enabled by default for all accounts. Tracking protection blocks tracking pixels and in the default configuration also hides the user’s IP address. The company has now announced this.
Tracking components in emails are usually counting pixels. A small pixel image is added to the email, which is loaded when the email is opened. The server from which the image is loaded receives information such as the user’s location and IP address, as well as information about the date and time of the request. The new ProtonMail feature automatically removes tracking pixels from emails. Users are informed about this in the interface so that you can see how many pixels are blocked. To the right of the email header, ProtonMail displays a number that indicates the number of blocked trackers in that email.
Clicking the icon in the email header will reveal more information about the trackers that the service has blocked. Each tracker is listed with its full address and grouped by domain name. Tracking Protection changes the way external images are downloaded in emails. The default behavior uses a proxy with a generic IP address to download remote images; this is done so as not to reveal the user’s IP address.
Google’s Gmail service has a similar function. Deleted images are downloaded from Google servers and not by the user when emails are opened. This feature protects the user’s email address, but has a drawback for some users: Gmail automatically displays the deleted content in the email, which means that unwanted content can also be displayed automatically. Instead, ProtonMail blocks the automatic loading of deleted content by default, but there is an option to enable it. ProtonMail explains more about the tracking protection feature in one go blog post.
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