Friday, December 13, 2013

Gmail begins to show images safely by default

Email is still the most popular way for people to "talk" on the internet, but it's also a fertile ground for spammers to try and take advantage of us. As there is no guaranteed way for a sender to know if their email was actually opened and read by the recipient, they soon come across an easy solution to give them that valuable information (a person that opens up spam emails is more likely to "fall for it" and becomes a much likely target for it.)

How do they do it? Simply be inserting images in the emails. When you email program displays the images, it grabs them from the spammer's servers, indicating you've opened the spam email (and also providing your IP address). That caused most email clients to disable the image loading on emails... which gives no indication to spammers, but might also make you miss some content where a image would be worth a thousand words.

Now Google has come up with a way to safely show images in Gmail, and it's actually quite simple as well. Instead of letting your computer talk to the (potential) spammer server to get the images, it acts as a proxy in between them. So, it's Google that grabs the images, and your computer grabs them from Google's own server. So... no way for spammers to know your IP address, or even if you actually opened the email or it was just Google's server checking the image.

So, now the only time you might want to disable images on your Gmail account is if your data plan doesn't allow for that much mobile traffic and you have friends that insist on sending you multi-megabyte photos in each and every email.

Even though I like this safe image system, I think I'll still be leaving my "don't show images by default" and do it for a just a handful of contacts I do want to see images from.

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