Until I read about Google’s recent decision to preload all images automatically in all Gmail messages, I never thought about what happens when I read a message with images. Apparently, almost any message from a marketer will load those images from a remote server. Because of the nature of HTTP, when each message is loaded, your email client communicates a great deal of “analytic data” about you. It reveals your computing platform (mobile vs. desktop), your operating system, your IP address, and even your geographic location.
For years, you’ve been able to tell your email client to not load remote images. It’s a matter of setting a preference. For example, in Mac OS Mail, you just go to Preferences > Viewing and uncheck the “Display remote images in HTML messages.”
In iOS, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and turn off the setting for “Load Remote Images” to do the same.
I thought the only purpose of this preference was to speed up downloads, but since I’ve had high-speed Internet for years, I never considered activating it.
Once you stop loading remote images, many email messages look terrible. Many image-rich email messages require using the very worst principles of web design, such as tables and single-pixel invisible images, and all you see is a lot of blank space.
There is some upside to this: all those barebones messages load really fast. And they make us less attractive to marketers.