Free software allows anyone to track your emails

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- There are programs that allow big companies, and even the little guy, to send you emails, and find out when and where you opened them.

It may sound creepy, but some job seekers call it a valuable tool. When photographer Bob Johnson emails his resume, he uses tracking software to see if the recipient ever opened it.

"I know that my resume has gone where I sent it. I know how many times it has been opened, if an email has been opened six times I know there may be some interest and maybe I'll get a call," said Johnson. "I don't think people realize
that this technology is out there and available to just about anybody."

A simple online search shows many companies offer email tracking for free or at a very low cost. There are also apps that allow you to track emails you send and get reports sent to your phone.

"A couple of years ago only big businesses had access to this, but anyone can use email tracking today. Email tracking is the next big thing in tracking," said cyber security expert Gary Miliefsky.

How does it work?

Some programs have users put a short code next to a recipient's email address that they cannot see. Other companies have users click a box that says "email tracking on."

Miliefsky says the tracking software puts a code or image in the email someone sends. When a recipient opens it, the sender will be notified.

"When someone is tracking emails on you they can find out a lot of information about when you read the email, how long you were reading it, where you were geo located, what kind of computer you're using, what kind of web browser or email client, and if you clicked any hyperlinks, downloaded any attachment, or even sent that email onto others." Miliefsky said.

Experts say tracking is legal in most cases, and email senders do not have to disclose when tracking has been enabled.

The only way to avoid having your email tracked is to read your email in "text only" mode so that it doesn't automatically download tracker images and attachments. Be careful of clicking on links within the email.

"If you open the email itself they get no information, it's when your email displays that image then they get information." attorney and cyber expert Anne Mitchell said.

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