By Leo Kelion for BBC
The use of “invisible” tracking tech in e-mails is now “endemic”, according to a messaging service that analysed its traffic at the BBC’s request.
Hey’s review indicated that two-thirds of emails sent to its users’ personal accounts contained a “spy pixel”, even after excluding for spam.
Its makers said that many of the largest brands used email pixels, with the exception of the “big tech” firms.
Defenders of the trackers say they are a commonplace marketing tactic.
And several of the companies involved noted their use of such tech was mentioned within their wider privacy policies.
Emails pixels can be used to log:
- If and when an email is opened
- How many times it is opened
- What device or devices are involved
- The user’s rough physical location, deduced from their internet protocol (IP) address – in some cases making it possible to see the street the recipient is on
- This information can then be used to determine the impact of a specific email campaign, as well as to feed into more detailed customer profiles.
Hey’s co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson says they amount to a “grotesque invasion of privacy”.
Without special software, it is not easy to spot which emails contain a tracking pixel.
And other experts have also questioned whether companies are being as transparent as required under law about their use.
Tracking pixels are typically a .GIF or .PNG file that is as small as 1×1 pixels, which is inserted into the header, footer or body of an email.
Since they often show the colour of the content below, they can be impossible to spot with the naked eye even if you know where to look.
Recipients do not need to click on a link or do anything to activate them beyond open an email they are embedded in.
British Airways, TalkTalk, Vodafone, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, HSBC, Marks & Spencer, Asos and Unilever are among UK brands Hey detected to be using them.
But their use was much more widespread despite many members of the public being unaware of it, said Hansson.
“It’s not like there’s a flag saying ‘this email includes a spy pixel’ in most email software,” he added.
Source: Economic Times
As the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) spreads like wildfire across countries, Microsoft’s Bing team has launched a web portal to track its progress worldwide.
The website provides up-to-date infection statistics for each country. An interactive map allows users to click on the country to see the specific number of cases and related articles from a variety of publishers.
You can view the interactive map here.
According to sources, data is being aggregated from sources like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Microsoft announced the website two days after US President Donald Trump said Google had begun working on COVID-19-related portal for US citizens.
Google’s website is being built by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet focused on healthcare services.
“More than 1 700 engineers are currently working on the site,” Trump said during a press briefing last week.
The tool will triage people who are concerned about their COVID-19 risk into testing sites based on guidance from public health officials and test availability.
Globally, the virus has now affected 216 030 people, and has caused 8 891 deaths.
Uber has discussed collaborating with companies which collect driving and travel data for its analysis tool, Uber Movement.
This is according to Uber Movement product manager Jordan Gilbertson.
Uber Movement is a collection of data and software that analyses travel times between points in cities, and is available for free online.
The tool is aimed at urban planners, and Uber recently announced the addition of Johannesburg and Pretoria to Uber Movement.
While the service is currently limited to anonymised aggregate data that Uber collects, Gilbertson said they plan to add to the capabilities of the service.
He said there is an opportunity to incorporate telematics data such as sudden slow-downs caused by bumps and poor road surfaces.
They may also attach sensors to vehicles, and eventually use sensors on autonomous vehicles in a city.
These may include more advanced detectors such as LIDAR, which could help do pedestrian counts.
Gilbertson said Uber has discussed partnering with companies which collect travel data – such as Tracker and Discovery Insure.
“There are several international markets where we’re looking at this,” said Gilbertson.
Uber is also interested in partnerships with companies like Google and TomTom, which also collect data on travel times and traffic.
Open data like this is an incredibly powerful tool for city planning and it would be great if everyone would share information that could be used to improve cities, said Gilbertson.
By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband