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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.
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.
2. Open Settings
From the pop-up menu, click Settings.
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.
Once you've done that, you can close the settings window and trust that Thunderbird is sending the DNT request.
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.