For those who don't know FollowUp.cc is an add-on for Gmail that (among other things) add a tracking pixel to emails so the sender can know when/if you open an email, how many times it is opened etc.

Some of my managers use it (when sending emails in general and not just to me). Would there be an issue with blocking that tracking pixel so it doesn't ping back to my managers that I opened/opened repeatedly the email? I have checked my contract and there isn't anything in it about tracking emails.

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    What an insidious idea - I decline read receipts on principle, but this is a few levels worse. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is a way out - as soon as you start blocking the tracker then your bosses are going to think "markus103 isn't reading any of my email" and will want to know why. They can then instruct you to unblock the tracker. About the only thing that might help is if you take it up with IT as a security issue. – HorusKol Aug 22 '17 at 22:54
  • That's a good idea actually. Didn't know about this add-on for Gmail. – Jack Aug 22 '17 at 23:56
  • I guess the real issue is how does knowing there's a tracking pixel affect your behavior in reading and responding to the email and more importantly, how would this behavior be judged? Does opening it, letting time elapse, and then opening it again and responding indicate anything different than doing something like letting time elapse before opening it? What about opening it several times and then responding? Isn't the most important metric simply whether or not you responded diligently to the email in a reasonable amount of time? – teego1967 Aug 23 '17 at 2:22
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    Assuming this works by attempting to download the image from a remote server(and subsequently tracking that attempt), you should be able to block it by disabling image downloads. If/when your boss asks you about it, say you read on a security blog about malicious attacks using images in email and decided to try turning images off. Surely your boss won't mind a proactive employee keeping up with latest security practices. How to do this will depend on your email client, but most should have it in their options somewhere. – Maybe_Factor Aug 23 '17 at 5:41
  • How do you know your manager is using this tracking technique? Did he say "I'm using tracking software, so make sure you read the e-mail quickly?" – Brandin Aug 23 '17 at 6:42

Would there be an issue with blocking that tracking pixel so it doesn't ping back to my managers that I opened/opened repeatedly the email?

Most probably yes, as you are in this way acting against the efforts made by your management. You are basically undoing their pixel tracking.

They will eventually find what you did and turn to be a problem for you (plus making you remove the blocking).

I would not recommend doing this; whether you agree or not, management calls should be always carried out. You can, however, express your opinion or worries about this to your manager, in a polite manner. This way you have a chance to change their mind without behaving in a challenging or impolite way.

  • Until the management says "please uninstall the tracking blocker" it is not yet a "call by management". It's likely the manager doesn't actively look at each click. Usually, such software is used for statistical purposes (what % of people opened the mail, etc.). – Brandin Aug 23 '17 at 6:59
  • But still is playing with fire – DarkCygnus Aug 23 '17 at 13:28

Instead of trying to block or circumvent the tracking pixel, consider accepting the fact that they're tracking this information, and learning to work around it.

For example, one primary reason I can think of why management would want to do this is so that they know when you've seen an email and how long you take to reply (assuming a reply is necessary.) So, when you read such an email for the first time, reply immediately. Say something like "I'll look into this and get back to you" or "thank you for the suggestion" or whatever. Then proceed with your regular work schedule and prioritize the email request accordingly, as you normally would.

The manager gets his swift reply, you openly acknowledge that you've seen the email and can (presumably) move on with your day. The fact that there's a tracking pixel involved doesn't really add any new information at this point. The emails are timestamped anyway, so even the question of when the pixel fired is redundant information.

I wouldn't worry too much about the pixel firing multiple times if you repeatedly reopen the email, until and unless management actually raises that as a concern. If they do, you could always consider temporarily disconnecting your computer from the network before reopening an email you've already opened. Or, you could copy/paste the body of the email into a text file and reference that as many times as you want.

That way, they still get their precious pixel tracking on the first time you open the email, but remain blissfully ignorant of how many times you re-check the content later. But this is all extra work for you (however slight), so like I said, I wouldn't worry about it until they complain about it.

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