Tech Insight : How To Know If Someone Has Read Your Email?

In this tech insight, we take a look at the better-known ways of being able to tell if someone has read your email.

The Usual Suspects

The main ways to tell if a person has read your email include:

– Request a read receipt when you compose the email.  The read receipt is then sent to you as an email with the time and date of when your message was opened.  For example, in Gmail, when composing the email, bottom right, click “More options” > “Request a read receipt”. In Outlook, Go to File > Options > Mail, and Under Tracking, select “Read receipt” which confirms that the recipient viewed the message checkbox.

– Delivery receipt. This is a way of confirming (by receiving an email back) if an email message has been delivered to the recipient’s e-mail server.  In Outlook, for example, go to File > Options > Mail, and Under Tracking, select “Delivery receipt”. Although it will directly confirm if the email has been read, it will confirm if the email address you sent to exists. 

– Tracking pixels. A tracking pixel / marketing pixel / spy pixel is a 1×1 pixel graphic that can be hidden in anything from banner ads to emails and used to track user behaviour.  Tracking pixels can be inserted in emails and used to log if and when an email is opened, how many times it’s opened, and what device / devices are used. It can also use the (IP) address to get a rough idea of the recipient’s physical location.

– LinkedIn’s Inmail.  This service, within LinkedIn, allows one LinkedIn member to directly message another LinkedIn member that they aren’t connected to. LinkedIn allows read receipts on its internal messages so that the sender can see if the email has been read.  These receipts can be requested by clicking on the ‘Me’ icon at the top of the page, and selecting “Settings & Privacy” (dropdown list), “Communications” > “Messaging experience” > “Change”, and next to “Read receipts and typing indicators” turning the toggle to ‘on’.

– Third-party mail marketing programs and CRMs. Mailchimp, for example, can track who opened your marketing email (sent to their email address), and how many times. Zoho can track emails but requires a read-receipt request to see if the email has been opened (using the “Ask Receipt” feature).

– Third-party email tracking tools/ apps. Many of these work as an extension in Google Chrome, for example, Right, SalesHandy, Mailtrack, Streak, or MailTracker.

– Using codes. With Campaign Monitor, for example, UTM codes can be set within the emails to tell the analytics tool which recipients visited from your email campaigns, thereby confirming that the email has been opened.

Fooling Read Receipts?

App security and the option to opt-out/turn-off features like receipts mean that in many cases, it’s possible to fool these features. There are, however, some ‘hacks’ and methods for some apps posted online. One example involving WhatsApp, involves recording a voice note (in WhatsApp), where a sender can see if a recipient has played the recording, even if the recipient has disabled the ‘Read Receipt’ feature.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

For business, marketing (and sometimes legal reasons), it is often important and helpful to know if a person has seen and opened your email. Emails, however, are private communications involving the management of personal data and, as such, there are relatively ways to monitor email openings (e.g. requesting a read receipt or other methods described earlier). For businesses, this may be an ongoing marketing challenge but, as individuals, there is value in maintaining our own email privacy and security.

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