Who is Tracking You?

30 sept 2015

Who is Tracking You?

By Jean Christofferson

A lot goes on for each email message that is delivered. Multiple pieces of data are captured and saved by different entities. All this little data is accumulated into the Big Data that is mined to determine what your innermost desires are and what your purchasing intentions might be.

Let's start with the delivery. Each email has a header that is used to get the message to you. The header contains the details about what mail server sent the email on those behalf, servers that were used inbetween, and the final receiving server. The email subject is part of the header. Good email senders use digital signing such as DKIM and offer SPF records and DMARC policies so the receiver can verify that the message is authorized to be sent and has not been tampered with in transit.

When you open an email you are tracked. This can be done simply from a single pixel that is a beacon that records information about you, in addition to mapping you to another service such as Facebook. You can also be tracked by writing a cookie to your computer so that when you visit the website cooresponding to that cookie, you will be recognized and treated accordingly.

Information collected when you open an email includes the date and time, the IP address, the type of computer and the browser software that you are using. Your location can be determined from your IP address. If you click on any links that is captured as well. If you are reading email using a web interface the content of the email is parsed in addition to watching how far down in the email you are reading.

Once you have been pixeled you can then be retargeted. All of a sudden you will see ads and promoted posts everywhere you go for the product that tracked you. All the data they have about you will be deployed to get you to take their desired action and click away your privacy rights without realizing what just happened.

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