As you may have read in The New York Times
, we recently announced a stellar new leadership team. We also announced a unique privacy promise to our readers:
- Our website will not expose you to third-party tracking.
- We will collect as little personal information about you as possible and we will never monetize this data.
That privacy promise often makes our job more difficult and more expensive. We call it the #PrivacyTax.
Consider this newsletter. It took us five weeks to find an email provider that would disable the tracking technology in this message. We looked into eight different companies before finding this one.
We thought we’d been able to turn off the trackers with one company and felt deceived when some showed up anyway. (More on this in a sec.)
Why was this so hard? Because tracking is so standard in newsletters that it’s built into the tech. Sometimes the senders even know your physical location and what type of device you’re using when you open their newsletter.
How? They embed tiny transparent images which are unique to each recipient. When you open the message, your email program will request the unique tiny transparent image and that tells the sender you opened their email — and potentially other details about how and where.
At The Markup, we don’t think we need granular stats on who opened our email and when, or what device they were on, or where they were when they opened it.
That’s why we were so disappointed when we thought we’d found a company that allowed users to turn them all off – but it didn’t work, at least not for us.
Who was it? The 800-lb gorilla in the email marketing world, Mailchimp.
Its support pages said it allowed users to turn off
invisible image tracking and disable
so-called “click tracking” of which links a user clicks on in an email. So we prepped our newsletter and turned off all those tracking features (see below) and got ready to send it out.