Pictures in an Email

April 29, 2009

Many of us send and receive pictures attached to e-mail. But an e-mail can actually contain a picture embedded in the e-mail itself. Most commercial e-mail advertisements and newsletters are this way. These e-mails often look more like a web page than an e-mail. We sometimes embed pictures in this newsletter.


Most e-mail programs have the capability to block these embedded pictures and many of them do that by default. You might ask, “Why would I want to block pictures from my e-mail?” There are two reasons. One reason is that spam e-mail often contains offensive pictures like porn, for example.

Another reason is that an invisible picture can be embedded in an e-mail so that you don’t know it’s there. This invisible picture can notify the spammer that you opened the e-mail they sent you. This doesn’t allow the spammer to harvest any identifying information about you and it doesn’t infect your computer, but it does tell the spammer that your e-mail address is valid. And the problem with that is that once a spammer knows he has a valid e-mail address, he’s going to send lots of spam to it. In addition, he’s going to sell that address to other spammers. So the biggest reason to block images is to avoid getting more spam.

If your e-mail program is set to block images, when you display an e-mail, there is usually a button or link at the top of the e-mail message that gives you the option to unblock pictures for that e-mail. So if you get an e-mail from someone you trust, you can click that to view the pictures. Otherwise, they will be blocked.

If you don’t like that, you can change the options on your e-mail program so that it allows the pictures. If you do that, however, we recommend that you set your e-mail program so that it does not show a preview of e-mail messages.  If you turn preview off (called reading pane in some e-mail programs), then to read an e-mail, you have to double-click on it.

If you use webmail like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or Gmail and you read your e-mail on a website, then you don’t use an e-mail program. Most webmail will allow pictures by default but if you look at e-mail in your junk mail folder, it will block them there.

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