Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


How to add Do Not Track to Thunderbird (and why you should)

Thunderbird includes the ability to block third parties from tracking you via your email.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
Hands typing on laptop
iStockphoto/Getty Images

In this modern age, it's growing harder and harder to prevent being tracked online. Most often this is used to better target you for advertising. That alone, for many, is an invasion of privacy. Because of that, several types of software have adopted Do Not Track (DNT).

In web browsers, for example, this setting automatically requests that web applications disable tracking for users. Not all web browsers enable that setting by default, but users can always switch it on.

Once enabled, the browser will send the Do Not Track request to websites, analytics companies, ad networks, plug-in providers, and any other service or application that attempts to track your activity.

That option isn't just available to web browsers. Most modern email clients have the ability to render HTML content within emails. Because of this, third parties can track you when your email client renders that HTML email.

Also: You're definitely not making the most of your password manager

Again, an invasion of privacy.

Some email clients include a DNT feature. Such is the case with my favorite email client, Thunderbird. I want to show you how to enable DNT on Thunderbird so you can prevent those third-party organizations from tracking you via your email.

A caveat to consider

According to Avast, in its current form, DNT is not very effective. Why? Because many sites refuse to honor the DNT request. Avast says, "No, Do Not Track is not very effective. Without legislation or some sort of meaningful arrangement behind it, Do Not Track has no teeth. Even if all the browsers made it possible to include a Do Not Track option, that doesn't mean that companies that want to track you will comply."

Back in 2012, ZDNET posted a piece calling DNT a complete failure. Again, the failure is because DNT is a voluntary standard and requires good faith from third parties. Unfortunately, most websites aren't honoring those requests. Why? So they can track you. Another problem, according to Ed Bott's piece is, "Two big associations, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Digital Advertising Alliance, represent 90% of advertisers. Downey says those big groups have devised their own interpretation of Do Not Track. When the servers controlled by those big companies encounter a DNT=1 header, says Downey, "They have said they will stop serving targeted ads but will still collect and store and monetize data.""

In other words, we need legislation to force third parties to comply with DNT or it will never work properly.

That being said, let's enable it on Thunderbird so that eventually (when businesses are forced to comply with DNT requests) you'll be protected.

How to add Do Not Track to Thunderbird (and why you should)


The only thing you'll need to make this work is a running instance of the Thunderbird email client. Thunderbird is supported on Linux, MacOS, and Windows, and it doesn't matter which operating system you use, as the feature is the same across all platforms. I'll be demonstrating on Thunderbird version 102.5.0, running on Pop!_OS Linux.

With that said, let's get this feature enabled.

1. Open Thunderbird and access the menu

Open your Thunderbird email client and click the three-horizontal-line menu button in the top right corner of the main window.

The Thunderbird menu button in the upper right corner of the window.

Accessing the Thunderbird menu is but a click away.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

2. Open Settings

From the pop-up menu, click Settings.

The Thunderbird menu popup.

Make sure to click Settings and not Account Settings.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Enable DNT

In the Privacy & Security section, under Web Content, click the checkbox for Send websites a "Do Not Track" signal that you don't want to be tracked.

Also: How to create message filters in Thunderbird to keep your inbox organized

Once you've done that, you can close the settings window and trust that Thunderbird is sending the DNT request.

The Privacy & Security section of Thunderbird's Settings window.

Enabling DNT in Thunderbird's Settings window.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Another handy tip

By default, Thunderbird is configured not to display remote content (HTML email). I would highly recommend you keep that setting as is and only allow Thunderbird to show remote content for emails from people or companies you can absolutely trust. 

Also: How to encrypt email on Thunderbird (and why you should)

Even then (especially with HTML email from business), unless you have DNT enabled, the likelihood of you being tracked is high. In other words, enable DNT or your privacy is at risk.

Editorial standards