Friday, January 20, 2006

Tracking Emails

Unsolicited Emails by the Dozens and Their Tracking Codes

Many times emails from spammers will include a tracking code in the URL link which might go undetected by a person simply clicking on a link in the email. For example a spammer will place a unique code at the end of the Sample Tracking E-mail hyperlink?=id123 which will only show up in the hyperlink itself. Place your mouse over the preceding word hyperlink and look at the bottom of your browser to see an example of a tracking id number. Note: this is only an example and not indicative of the search company tracking.

Tracking ids may also be included in an image even if it is one pixel in size. When the email is opened and the image is viewed it can send a feedback signal through the Internet, letting whoever sent it to confirm the opening and reading of it. If the link is clicked it can also provide an additional form of confirmation of receiving the email.

This form of tracking has been used in e-mailed newsletters, by marketing professionals, and anti spammers for a long time to track the effectiveness of an email campaign. This is not an illegal activity, but it is important to understand how both spammers and anti spammers are tracking you. For the spammer using this form of feedback, there is a database of all the emails sent and when the unique identifier is triggered, then they know that a person with that particular email and identifier has at least opened and clicked on the link. When a picture is displayed that has the unique identifier it also provides the feedback to the database that simply means the email was opened by a particular email address.

Some would say that this form of feedback is an invasion of privacy. For the nonspammer that has had an opt-in sign up process for receiving information, this is like having a email confirmation that the information was received. However, on the spammers side, where the emails are harvested on the Internet through spam bots, this would be like receiving an unsolicited phone call, and when the phone is picked up this would be the confirmation that the phone number was active.

Many email programs have a picture blocking software built into it, with the user manually able to select the pictures to be displayed. There is also additional forms of spam blocking with some email programs that essentially provide somewhat of a separation from the original email message sent, to the actual link opened in the message sent. However, this does not remove the tracking id number. It only creates a New Window buffer between the Email Inbox and the website location address.

There are other forms of tracking used besides the id's. Target Cookies or Web Beacons may also be used to identify a user. Target Cookies or Web Beacons (clear GIFs) are not limited to just a web page but could be included in a picture, or through the click of a hyperlink in emails. See the following quote from the DoubleClick website information on privacy.

Once you click on a link in an email and go to the email publisher or advertiser's Internet website, DoubleClick's servers may assign your browser a unique email cookie for that email publisher or advertiser. You may receive an email cookie for each separate email publisher or advertiser from which you receive email through DoubleClick DARTmail services. This way, the information you provide or activities you perform with a particular email publisher or advertiser are only available to that email publisher or advertiser, and not to other email publishers or advertisers. Through the use of clear GIFs on the email publisher or advertiser's Web pages, and the assignment of a email cookie specific to the email publisher or advertiser by DoubleClick, the email publisher or advertiser may also note whether you visit certain pages within their website, and some of the activities you perform at that website, such as purchases. The information collected through the use of these cookies may be linked to your email address in order for the email publisher or advertiser to decide which advertisements or email messages to send to you in the future.

As you can see the information collected through this feedback mechanism can be linked to your email address.

For an illustration of how a unique id can function in a positive way, take a look at this hyperlink for Professional Web Services. Before clicking the link simply place your cursor over the link and view the URL in the bottom of your browser. You will see the word professional preceded by the # symbol. The # symbol plus a name or number, can be used as a bookmark within a page so that when the bookmark is clicked, it can take the reader to a direct spot in a page. It can also function as a unique identification for this one specific hyperlink only. Then with an analytical website analysis program, it can be determined how many times that hyperlinked was clicked from this specific page.

So, the bottom line is, be careful what you view on your email. Because, simply opening your email can send a message out on the Internet telling what email address the message was opened from.

For additonal security information visit McAfee to perform a free scan of your computer to see if there have been any viruses downloaded which have infected your computer. Another excellent choice for controlling email viruses arriving to your computer and filtering unsolicted emails is the Google Gmail Email service.

If your are interested in receiving a Free Google Gmail account, write to us and we would be more than happy to provide an invitation. Mention this e-mail Tracking article when you write.

For Internet Marketing Services, Online Advertising Strategies, Web Branding Solutions to provide More Sales For Your Business.

Email The B2B and B2C Business Internet Marketing Agents