web bug is an object that is embedded in a web page or email message and it is
used to track if a user has read an email, when it was read, or if the email
was forwarded to another person or if a web page was copied to another website.
Web bugs can be invisible or transparent. They are used in combination with
cookies to help people running websites to understand their customer behavior.
It is a small image usually 1 pixel by 1 pixel and placed on a site or an
On web pages, Web bugs are mostly used by a third party to track the activity
of a site. If you turn off your browser cookie, it will prevent web bugs from
tracking your activity. A page request from the customer’s IP address will
still be recorded but unique information that are associated with cookies
cannot be recorded.
In emails, Web bugs are used for marketing to determine if the owners of the
email open their messages. This will allow the owners to know if the recipient
has seen the promotion or announcement they sent so as to either back up or put
more pressure on the customer. Marketers insert a transparent 1×1 image into
your email and when the email is opened, the image will alert the server where
it originated from with information such as the time, the location of the
customer and the type of device the customer is using. Recommended post : Facebook plans to Extend its Messenger apps to include other features
This practice has been in use for long and it is not illegal either, Google
also has a support page to help advertisers with the process. When a user opens
an email with a web bug, the image in the mail and other information is
downloaded and this download requires the user’s browser to send a request to
the server storing the image and it allows the company running that server to
track your email.
Web bugs are used in web pages and emails in the same way but they have
different purposes. When a web bug is in an email, the image is requested when
the recipient opens the email for the first time and it can also be requested
every time the recipient loads the mail but when a web page with or without
bugs is being downloaded, the server that is holding the page knows and can
store the IP address of the computer requesting the page, therefore, the
information can be got from the server log files without a need for even using
web bugs. Web bugs are used on web pages when the tracking company does not
have easy access to the logs of the main web server.
Monitoring of emails can be prevented by using email client that do not
download images. Also some email clients offer to disable all images in every
message, thereby rendering the message as plain text and since plain text email
messages are interpreted as display characters, web bugs are prevented from
Most modern email readers will also not load images when opening email from an
unknown sender or an email that is suspected to be spam. The recipient must
specifically choose to download the image. You can also disconnect your
internet before you read any downloaded message suspected to contain web bugs
and delete the message before reconnecting back to the internet, this is also a
way to avoid being monitored by web bugs.