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Chapter 16. Outlook Security and Privacy > Protecting Your Privacy

Protecting Your Privacy

Everyone who markets products and services—legitimate or otherwise—via e-mail wonders the same thing: Are my messages actually being opened and read? To answer that question, some enterprising marketers devised the Web bug. In its sneakiest form, a Web bug is an image file that consists of a single pixel and is literally invisible on the HTML-formatted page. Using standard mail merge techniques, the sender composes an HTML-based e-mail message and attaches a unique identifier (a serial number, perhaps, or your e-mail address) to the link that retrieves the Web bug. When you open or preview the message, your e-mail client connects to the server and requests the image. By examining the server logs, the sender can determine that you opened the message he sent. He now knows that your e-mail address is valid, and that you aren't blocking his address, and he's emboldened to send you more messages. The result is more junk in your Inbox.

Outlook 2003 includes a new default setting that automatically blocks all external content from being retrieved when you open or preview an HTML e-mail message. The effect can be disconcerting at first, because every image that would normally appear in the message is replaced with a message box containing a red X, an explanation from Microsoft, and the alternate text associated with the image (which normally appears in the ScreenTip for the image). Figure 16.8 shows a message in which images have been blocked.



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