Trackbuster Lets You Remove Those Pesky Email Tracking Beacons

Trackbuster is a nifty little tool that could be useful if you’re paranoid about your privacy. Launching today, this service will analyze your incoming emails in Gmail, identify those that have invisible trackers and remove these trackers. It works with Gmail and it’s not perfect yet, but I can see why someone would use it.

As you know if you run a MailChimp campaign, there is a way to figure out how many people open your newsletter. These marketing email companies use transparent 1 pixel PNG images, unique identifiers in URLs and more.

That’s why in Gmail you need to manually opt in to load external images in an email. It’s a way to prevent invisible pixels. But many people now check their emails on their phones, and chances are that you are using a client that automatically loads images if you didn’t configure it properly (Apple’s Mail app on iOS automatically loads images for example, but there is a way to disable it). And some clients don’t give you the same flexibility when it comes to protecting your privacy.

Trackbuster removes invisible pixels even with these mobile clients. When you first set up Trackbuster, you log into your Gmail account on Trackbuster’s website using OAuth 2. And that’s it. After that, incoming emails will be analyzed and a new Gmail label that says “untracked” will appear for emails that featured trackers.

But in many ways, Trackbuster’s implementation is clunky. First, it’s a server-side solution, meaning that the company will intercept all your incoming emails to scan them on their servers. The startup has a security page on its website. “We do not store the content of your emails. We only analyze automatically the content of your emails to decide whether to untrack it. We never look at the content of your emails,” it says. But you’ll have to trust these words.

Second, when a bugged email comes in, Trackbuster moves it to a temporary folder so that you don’t accidentally open it before it is untracked. And then, the email comes back to your inbox. It has issues as well as I started receiving two notifications for the same email on my phone.

Finally, if you are really concerned about your privacy, maybe you shouldn’t use Gmail in the first place. And if you really need to use Gmail because your company uses Google Apps, just be careful with the clients that you use and the links you click on. You don’t really need something like Trackbuster. I’m sure that Trackbuster will be useful for some people, but I already uninstalled it. But given the success of ad blockers and scripts that strip out Google Analytics tags, I wouldn’t rule out Trackbuster just yet.