Uh, didn't get the email?
March 14, 2005 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I have gmail. Is it possible for people using applications like Eudora, Outlook, etc. to know if/when I have "opened" and read emails they have sent to me?
posted by availablelight to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I don't think so. If they request a return receipt yes, but that only gets sent if you let it.
posted by borkingchikapa at 8:30 AM on March 14, 2005

Read Receipts are a special header that is inserted by the mail client when you send the email. Not all applications handle them, but I know that Outlook does, and Thunderbird does as well, by automatically sending an email back to the original sender.

I think it's an M$ specific extension but I'm not certain. I suspect that Google would not implement this feature.

I once setup a mailing system that knew when people opened/read emails by embedding an HTML image into the email that linked to a script. When somebody opened the email, it loaded the image and called the script, and we could thus tell when/how many times they opened the email.

Is this something that you're worried about or something that you're trying to setup?
posted by gaby at 8:46 AM on March 14, 2005

There are things like DidTheyReadIt.com that basically work by including a small (usually 1 pixel) image into an email, that is on a remote server. When the HTTP request is made to grab that image, which has a unique name/number for that email, the service then can say that the email was opened.

Now, does Gmail by default open up remote images when it receives an html message? I don't really know. I don't get any emails usually in my Gmail that contain remote images. If it does, then yes - they can tell when you open an email.
posted by stovenator at 8:50 AM on March 14, 2005

On preview, what stovenator said.... They could also embed a remote image and then check their server logs to see when that image was accessed. That's unrelated to which e-mail program they use, as long as it can compose HTML e-mail.

It doesn't work with Gmail, because it's set not to display external images by default. The message will contain a short bit of text at the top that says "External images are not displayed" and then a link that says "Show external images." If you click that link, then it'll show up in the server log.
posted by Jeff Howard at 9:06 AM on March 14, 2005

Outlook 2003 started not loading images embedded in email by default - long overdue. As long as your program does not load images until you tell it to, I see of no way anyone can tell whether you opened an email or not. (Of course, following a link sent in the email is also ill-advised, since that is potentially trackeable as well.)
posted by parma at 11:43 AM on March 14, 2005

Outlook Express also does the same (that is, not load images in advance. You need to explicitly tell it to do so). In addition, if the sender has requested a read-receipt, Outlook Express tells this to you and ask you if you would like to send an acknowledgement, to which I usually say No and I'm sure many other people do the same.
posted by tuxster at 12:31 PM on March 14, 2005

Response by poster: These answers are great--thanks.
posted by availablelight at 1:19 PM on March 14, 2005

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