February 03, 2003

This new MailTracking service is a little icky. It seems to function as a SiteMeter for your inbox -- letting you know individual IP addresses, tracking the time and length of each visit (or in this case, when the recipient opened your e-mail and for how long), what operating system and mailreader each person uses, etc.

This isn't exactly revolutionary -- any traceroute client can figure out what city an IP comes from, and AOL (at least the version I used to use) has a way of letting you know that the recipient has opened your e-mail. OK, fine. Some people don't want their privacy compromised like this, but there's really no such thing as privacy on the internet anyway. You leave a trail wherever you go, no matter how anonymous you believe you are -- if you use a password for any reason, it's always just a matter of time until someone hacks it.

But MailTracking can also figure out this stuff:

-Whether or not your email was forwarded to someone else

-If it was forwarded, where it was forwarded to, sometimes including who subsequently reads it.

-If your email gets published online, you can find this out too, as well as where (the URL) usually.


-Self-Destructing emails can be sent right from within your normal email program, letting you specify whether or not your recipient is allowed to print, mark/copy/paste, forward, or save your email, and how long they are allowed to read it, before it permanently erases itself.

It's toe-curling, isn't it?