Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Testing didtheyreadit.com's Mail-Tracking Claims

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the fantastic-claims-require-extraordinary-evidence dept.

Privacy 400

iosdaemon writes "didtheyreadit.com claims to be able to track your sent email: "When, exactly, your email was opened. How long your email remained opened. Where, geographically, your email was viewed. DidTheyReadIt works with every single internet provider and e-mail account, including EarthLink, AOL, NetZero, Juno, Netscape, Hotmail, Yahoo, and much more." Read on for more."This appears to be snake oil. I put it to test just in case someone had come up with some magical code. I sent email from a Yahoo.com account through the service, to an account on a Linux Box. Running tcpdump, I received the email from my pop and let 5 minutes pass before opening it. I left the message open with the cursor in the text for another 5 minutes. Tcpdump revealed absolutely no questionable traffic. And, the service control panel indicated the email had not been viewed. Sending email to a Yahoo.com account results in a 'read' in the service CP. But I had the message open for 10 minutes, and it indicated a 2-minute read......"

The company's "How it works" page explains the system to some degree; it involves redirecting all mail to be tracked through their servers by appending "didtheyreadit.com" to your recipient's email address. I doubt this is mutt-compatible ... Reader xrxzzy points out USAToday's article on the service as well.

cancel ×

400 comments

THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING ! (0, Offtopic)

ThinkAboutYourBreath (735770) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233031)

Hello, and THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING

Yes that's right, THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING. Why you might ask? Well it's simple!

Your brain usually takes care of breathing FOR you, but whenever you remember this, YOU MUST MANUALLY BREATH! If you don't you will DIE.

There are also MANY variations of this. For example, think about:

  1. BLINKING!

  1. SWALLOWING SALIVA!

  1. HOW YOUR FEET FEEL IN YOUR SOCKS!

  1. THAT ANNOYING SONG THAT GETS STUCK IN YOUR HEAD!


In conclusion, the THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING troll is simply unbeatable. These 4 words can be thrown randomly into article text trolls, into sigs, into anything, and once seen, WILL FORCE THE VICTIM TO TAKE CARE OF HIS BREATHING MANUALLY! This goes far beyond the simple annoying or insulting trolls of yesteryear.

In fact, by EVEN RESPONDING to this troll, you are proving that IT HAS CLAIMED ANOTHER VICTIM -- YOU!

Re:THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATHING ! (1)

terriblekarmanow tm (592883) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233278)

If you think that's unbeatable, how about this one:

DON'T THINK ABOUT YOUR MOTHER WHILE MASTURBATING

Uh, the link is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233034)

it needs a http:

Re:Uh, the link is wrong (1)

Shivantrill (654978) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233080)

If you are using IE, it will go right to the webpage. The poster must have been using windows

Re:Uh, the link is wrong (2, Interesting)

SuperficialRhyme (731757) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233118)

Strange. The links work for me with Mozilla Firefox 0.8 (unless they've been corrected already and I missed the time they didn't work).

Re:Uh, the link is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233140)

they got corrected

Re:Uh, the link is wrong (2, Interesting)

J'raxis (248192) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233360)

The browser should take the scheme from the context of the current URL. This is valid according to the definition of a URL in the RFC.

You know that a URL like /foo/bar is evaluated relative to the current server, right? Well, something like //www.foo.com/bar is evaluated relative to the current scheme, i.e., http.

FIRST POST (1)

Big Troller (651808) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233036)

Hell Yeah.... Take a look at this [albinoblacksheep.com]

fp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233037)

DidTheyReadIt is much more powerful from standard "return receipts." It differs from standard read-receipts because it works regardless of the e-mail program being used by the recipient. Standard read-receipts don't work if someone views your e-mail in web-based e-mail programs like Hotmail or Yahoo!, and some desktop e-mail programs can't process them either. Even when an e-mail program does support them, a lot of times they are ignored by the recipient. Also, they recipient knows that your e-mail is being tracked. DidTheyReadIt works automatically, without alerting the recipient that the e-mail is being tracked.

Re:fp! (4, Informative)

TheViciousOverWind (649139) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233102)

Nothing special, just "Webbug" images, which spamfilters such as SpamAssasin (in the default setting) adds point to as more likely to be spam, so using DidTheyReadIt users mail is more likely to end up in a spamfolder than any other type of mail.

On another note, I find it's walking on the thin red line of immoral behavior, and I know here in Denmark there've been several companies who've got bad publicity because of using said method.

Re:fp! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233115)

It's a frikin inline graphic in the email's HTML. Commerce sites, spammers, and just about everyone else have been doing this for almost ten years.

Yahoo, and Gmail too... (3, Informative)

QangMartoq (614688) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233186)

Both of these web-based email services have the ability to block loading of images in spam, though, at least with Yahoo, it's worthy to note that this feature extends only to messages stored in your 'Bulk' folder.

As to Gmail, I don't know, but from what I've heard it works in a similar way.

Also, the newer versions of AOL diasable images in emails by default, requiring the user to click on an 'Enable images and links' option on each email they want to see images/have working links in.

Having email clients disable images by default (Which sems to be an increasing trend) will relegate this 'service' to the wasteland of failed dot coms pretty quickly, I'd think. When this happens, I wont be one to shed a tear. I have no desire for anyone that emails me to be able track if I have read their message. If I have, and I choose to respond to it, then they know. If I don't respond, they can keep guessing.

Link doesn't work (5, Informative)

fatwreckfan (322865) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233041)

Here's a working link: http://www.didtheyreadit.com/ [didtheyreadit.com] .

How it 'works' (5, Informative)

ZiZ (564727) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233042)

This is nothing more than off-site image tracking, as has been seen in spam for ages and ages. Here's an example of the image it adds:

<img src="http://didtheyreadit.com/index.php/worker?cod e=2f985e815bd2b46450e 07957611ab6c9" width="1" height="1" /> So not only will it not work in text-based email clients (such as mutt), it won't work in modern versions of Outlook which block inline images by default. (It was nice enough to leave my plain-old-text message - "blah blah blah" - alone in the original format, as well as adding a text/html mangled version.)

Re:How it 'works' (3, Informative)

agm (467017) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233058)

Evolution has this feature as well. I'm sure anyone internet savvy and aware of the spam problem would have a mail reader that prevents remote images from being displayed - which renders this service useless.

Re:How it 'works' (2, Informative)

eSavior (767078) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233288)

Mozilla Thunderbird has the same feature, 1.tools->options...->advanced->privacy 2.check "Block loading of remote images in mail messages." 3.press okay

Re:How it 'works' (4, Insightful)

amembleton (411990) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233119)

From the 'How It Works' page: Will my recipient know that I am tagging my e-mail?
No. Not unless you want them to know.

As I suspected, they are just using a tracking image, sometimes I look at the source of messages (sad, I know), then I would know if I was being tracked. That saves me opening an account to see how they were going to do this.

I always view my email as Plain Text using Mozilla, so this wouldn't work unless I decided to switch back to HTML. I made some of these tracking images once and tried it out. I found that browsers were cacheing them, so it wouldn't always register if it was viewed in a webmail acount.

Re:How it 'works' (0)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233172)

I agree with the not switching back to HTML.

But on their site, they indicate the tracking facilities are partially performed by modifying the Recipients mail address before its sent - they nicely show it using hotmail, and the common free mail providers are obviously their targets for this.

they say to track the mails, for each person you want to track, instead of sending to username@hotmail.com, you send it to username@hotmail.com.didtheyreadit.com

This then allows their server to know when the mail was downloaded by the user without having to rely on images.

I dont think I'm gonna be using this anytime soon, but I can think of a few paranoid contacts who might want to.

Re:How it 'works' (4, Informative)

amembleton (411990) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233204)

This then allows their server to know when the mail was downloaded by the user without having to rely on images.

Unfortunatelly, I don't think it works like that. Their server will then send it to the users' server, or the mail server of their ISP or the mail sever of a webmail account such as Yahoo!, Gmail or Hotmail. Their server will send the message straight away, without any delay. The end user does not download the message from didtheyreadit.com sever, they download it from their usuall Yahoo! SMTP server or whatever their usuall mail server is.

Re:How it 'works' (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233276)

Oh my, I seem to be shooting myself in the foot at the moment with things. Maybe having a break from work wasn't the best thing for me ;)
Anyway, I'm back in tomorrow lol

Of course you and your peer are absolutely right, the mail address changes are so they can inject the code in.

*runs off looking sheepish*

Re:How it 'works' (4, Informative)

tigress (48157) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233233)

Uhh, no. The recipient "downloads" their mail from their ISPs mailserver. There's nothing didtheyreadit.com can do to change that. What the extra ".didtheyreadit.com" does is simply being an email adress that forwards the mail to the recipients server, and adding a tracking-image to the mail.

Of course, if you don't believe me, please feel free to call my free 1-800 number and I'll explain it further. I promise not to redirect your call to an international $9.95/min number.

Re:How it 'works' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233340)

This then allows their server to know when the mail was downloaded by the user without having to rely on images.

Nice reading comprehension there, Chief. Do you really think people are going to go to a different server for their mail?

Re:How it 'works' (3, Informative)

alder (31602) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233243)

...unless I decided to switch back to HTML.
Then you'll go to Tools -- Options... -- Advanced -- Privacy and make sure that "Block loading of remote images in mail messages" is checked. You'll gain nicely formatted messages (with images even if they are embedded) yet all remote images, that can track you, will be ignored.

Re:How it 'works' (3, Informative)

BuckaBooBob (635108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233273)

Not to mention if you have didtheyreadit.com in your hostfile with your loopback.

Re:How it 'works' (1, Redundant)

Christianfreak (100697) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233302)

Thunderbird at least (probably in Mozilla as well) has an option to turn off remotely loaded images. So you can keep the HTML formating if you so desire without worrying about being tracked in this fashion.

Re:How it 'works' (5, Insightful)

jacobdp (698004) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233122)

This is nothing more than off-site image tracking, as has been seen in spam for ages and ages.

And yet they claim that there's no way the recipient can know that the message is being tracked (see their FAQ [didtheyreadit.com] ) It may not be complete snake oil, but the company is definitely lying about the service's transparency.

And they route all your mail through their servers. I wouldn't be surprised if they soon started selling "pre-confirmed" email address lists.

Re:How it 'works' (4, Informative)

RotJ (771744) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233154)

Yahoo! and Hotmail also allow people to block all images until they explicitly approve them, so spammers can't track whether you've opened their spam. Didtheyreadit won't be able to either. So tracking for this service will be very spotty. For messages marked unread, you can NEVER know whether it was opened or not.

Re:How it 'works' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233274)

"didtheyreadit.com [didtheyreadit.com] claims to be able to track your sent email (if you use HTML mail): "When, exactly, your email was opened (if your e-mail programs loads offsite pictures by default). How long your email remained opened (again, if you're using HTML mail). Where, geographically, your email was viewed (assuming that the reverse DNS lookup will be anywhere near accurate, mine was 2000 miles away). DidTheyReadIt works with every single internet provider and e-mail account (assuming that they all have HTML mail enabled by default, which they don't), including EarthLink, AOL, NetZero, Juno, Netscape, Hotmail, Yahoo, and much more."

uh oh (-1, Offtopic)

rune2 (547599) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233044)

/me puts on my tinfoil hat

Definitely snake oil. (4, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233045)

All I have to do is read my mail when I'm not on line.

Nothing to see here, nothing at all.

-jcr

Re:Definitely snake oil. (5, Funny)

E_elven (600520) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233110)

There's a way to go off line? What does one do in this 'off-line' state?

Re:Definitely snake oil. (1, Funny)

plankers (27660) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233169)

You call your broadband company/ISP and have them fix the situation.

I for one... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233052)

I for one welcome our new email-reading overlords...

this is cool (4, Informative)

quelrods (521005) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233055)

Well, it will tell you when they opened the email/how many times/etc. (assuming they have an html enabled email client.) It works w/ yahoo mail but not with pine. The infinite refresh to tell how long they read the email for is annoying in that it makes it look like the email never finished loading. Can someone see how outlook responds to this? (I haven't a windows box)

Re:this is cool (4, Interesting)

quelrods (521005) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233076)

woops forgot to add it's direction finding skills are weak. Apparantly I'm in Michigan? I'm in Austin,TX and my POP is chicago. It appears to try to get information via one of the upstream links which is horribly inaccurate.

Re:this is cool (2, Funny)

madprof (4723) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233094)

So, in fact, this is not cool at all then.

Re:this is cool (-1, Troll)

E_elven (600520) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233132)

I'm posting this from my emergency Linux box. I attempted this on Outlook on my Windows partition. At first everything seemed to go fine, but then THE COMPUTER EXPLODED! So I have to use my emergency Linux box now. BECAUSE OUTLOOK EXPLODED!

Re:this is cool (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233155)

The infinite refresh to tell how long they read the email for is annoying in that it makes it look like the email never finished loading. Can someone see how outlook responds to this?

I'm just guessing here, but, based upon my previous experiences with Outhouse, it probably downloads an activeX script from a site in Korea and promptly reboots. But then again, that's the default behavior.

How good are their webservers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233059)

Although we have to get the link correct [didtheyreadit.com] in the first place.

Do you think they'll be able to read their site in the next hour... I hope not :-)

OE read receipts (2, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233063)

considering the non-friendly hack that you need to go through to get this working, wouldn't it be better to capture the data sent by Outlook and OE's read receipts and implement something compatible in Mozilla and other email clients.

I only say use the Outlook 'standard' because it doesn't seem there's any others, and it'd be a bit useless if we had multiple versions.

If we want read receipts, that is. Personally I turn them off, and don't send them.

Re:OE read receipts (5, Informative)

Ryquir (172934) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233164)

Uhmm... you do understand that Mozilla and other E-mail client do actually have read receipts and that this isn't a "MS" standard?

The only difference in clients abilities with regards to read receipts is how they present you the uninformed user the dialog box saying "Sender has requested you inform them that you have read this message".

Re:OE read receipts (1)

IncohereD (513627) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233195)

Weren't read receipts 'invented' by Netscape 4.x?? That's the first time I remember seeing them. And the functionality is still in Mozilla, one of my friends requests them, and I get a box asking if I want to send it or not.

Re:OE read receipts (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233356)

Or you could simply read the RFC [rfc-editor.org] . Seems a lot less trouble than packet sniffing and reverse engineering.

How it works (0, Redundant)

Matt2k (688738) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233065)

I'm assuming it works by appending an invisible image that references back to their servers. Spammers do this often to verify if an account is "live".

Most e-mail and webmail clients do not have any functionality for disabling remote images, so that would explain how it works "most of the time". Mozilla thunderbird, among others, allows you to disable remote image loading. Of course a text-based client running on any Linux system is not going to be succeptable to this method of tracking either.

Re:How it works (1)

avdp (22065) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233283)

Most email and webmail clients DO have this functionality. Yahoo, Hotmail, SquirrelMail even Outlook can block remote images (I am sure there are more, but those are the ones I have used - the most popular ones I would say). It may not be the default setting though.

Lets Implement a Similar System (5, Funny)

KhalidBoussouara (768934) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233066)

To see if people read the article before posting on Slashdot.

This post is a joke so don't moderate down. Also I am aware that this wouldn't be really effective.

This could be annoying (1)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233069)

The nice thing about email is that the user doesn't have to respond. This would "force" the user to correspond with the person who sent the email.

Hell, its fun to get an email and deleting it without responding.

Single pixel gif? (4, Insightful)

ilikejam (762039) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233072)

Sounds to me like they just embed a simgle pixel gif in the message, and monitor when they recieve the request for it.
How they monitor the length of time the mail stays open is a bit of a mystery.
Turn off 'Download images' and I'd imagine their system becomes useless.
Wasn't there a scare about spam merchants doing this once?

Re:Single pixel gif? (2, Informative)

octalc0de (601035) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233105)

Perhaps the single pixel gif never finishes loading. That way, as long as the connection remains open, the web server clocks how long you're on the image.

Re:Single pixel gif? (0, Redundant)

nslu (532403) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233129)

two options -- iether the server never closes connection when feeding the gif image, so it would be open until email's browser timeout or until email message is closed, or - i think this one is more likely - they trap onUnload() event and send some request to their server.

Re:Single pixel gif? (4, Interesting)

Neon Spiral Injector (21234) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233325)

I just tested, they send an image/jpeg with a header not specifying the length at 1 byte/second. But it is only 302 bytes long, so they can't track for more than 5 minutes. It is a real JPEG, 1x1 pixels, created with an Adobe product.

Re:Single pixel gif? (4, Informative)

Neon Spiral Injector (21234) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233138)

The time is probably calculated by not actually sending the image file, or sending it very slowly. So they just keep the HTTP session open, then note when the client closes. That would limit the tracking time to when the connection times out. Like the author said, he left the Yahoo mail open for 10 minutes and it only reported 2.

An additional note, Yahoo does have an option to disable remote images, which would also break this.

Seems this company is too late to the party. Almost all current e-mail clients now don't or have an option to not to load remote images.

Re:Single pixel gif? (2, Interesting)

5E-0W2 (767094) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233235)

Could be animated gifs sent slowly? I remember back in the days of netscape 3 iirc netscape had an aquarium webcam that worked by having an animated gif and new frames getting sent as they were generated. Or perhaps it was server push (multipart mime content). It was something like that which would work for this anyway. 1996 was a long time ago.

Re:Single pixel gif? (5, Informative)

ilikejam (762039) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233163)

Yup. Confirmed.
At the bottom of the mail is:
<img src="http://didtheyreadit.com/index.php/worker?cod e=xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" width="1" height="1" />

Oh well. Should prove very effective against those without the sense to turn off images anyway. Lets hear it for making money from people's ignorance!

Re:Single pixel gif? (1)

xrxzzy (751543) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233320)

Is it possible to block or reroute their IP?

Re:Single pixel gif? (1)

tigress (48157) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233199)

Server-push. Very simple.

get your privacy back easily (4, Informative)

xlyz (695304) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233074)

just set your mail client to not download images

Re:get your privacy back easily (5, Funny)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233285)

How do I do that in pine?

Re:get your privacy back easily (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233306)

Of course, this implies you use a mail client, not Outlook.

No good (3, Insightful)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233078)

If you can't trust the service, and you obviously can't, I don't think there's a very good reason to use it. Unless it works for every single message it's no good. It is a pretty neat idea, but the tinfoil hat crowd will most likely scream and shout about their privacy being invaded.

Re:No good (1)

Z-MaxX (712880) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233142)

Probably the biggest problem isn't a violation of privacy (spammers are are using this same technique all the time anyhow, you REALLY should disable the loading of images in your mail client) is the fact that is does not and *cannot* work for all email providers and clients.

Even Yahoo! webmail allows you to disable image loading. Furthermore, I always set my mail client to only show the plain text message, and not display any HTML at all. I don't need hypertext markup in my email messages.

Re:No good (5, Insightful)

Z-MaxX (712880) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233219)

Unless it works for every single message it's no good.

So true. And this is straight from their main page:

"Are you as sick of getting the "I never got your email." line as I was? This will eliminate that excuse completely. It really lets you know whom you're dealing with."

Now you simply say, "My spam filter blocks images." And you may have a reason then to think that the person who sent you the message doesn't trust you.

You can't solve a people problem with technology.

Duh. They track you with web bugs (i.e. images) (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233079)

This isn't some amazing breakthrough. They were doing this years ago when I worked in the bulk email industry.

IN SOVIET RUSSIA... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233087)

...E-MAIL TRACKS YOU!

No, wait, we have that here, too.

Why not do it yourself (4, Funny)

Crashmarik (635988) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233090)

If the recipient is using a text based email program theres no way in heck anything is going to track whether the mail was opened or read. If its an HTML reader like Outlook just pop a web beacon and let your server monitor it. If you can't figure out how to make this work yourself, you probably shouldn't be allowed to go spying on others anyway.

How does this crap get posted? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233095)

I expect better moderation from Slashdot than USA Today -- "technology" that's as old as HTML mail readers doesn't warrant an article.

Re:How does this crap get posted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233256)

This wasn't a troll. Slashdot readers (hopefully?) don't need to see press releases from companies plugging well-known, half-baked technology as an innovation.

Not very useful! (2, Informative)

edoc (772148) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233117)

This is not very useful as it is only tracking the images that are being loaded when the email is being viewed. However, most email clients now block these inline images from being loaded so this software will not function. In text based email clients it also will not function at all. These features have already been included in such email clients as evolution [novell.com] .

Who is 'They'?? (1)

DraKKon (7117) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233127)

Is 'they' the person that you are emailing.. or is 'They' didtheyreadit.com?

In Soviet Russia (1, Funny)

martingunnarsson (590268) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233136)

In Soviet Russia e-mail monitors YOU!

*ducks*

It's an animated GIF! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233145)

It embeds a single pixel image, but it appears to keep feeding you the image forever, at a rate of a byte a second. Thus, if you use an HTML image reader that loads embedded graphics from random servers, they will know how long you had it open for.

Of course, if you use an email program that's that, umm, "open", they could just embed a trojan in it and add features like listening to what you say when you open the mail, and pictures of you reading it. :)

A bad investment (1, Redundant)

digid (259751) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233150)

This company will be shot in the foot before long. It's not hard for email services such as hotmail and yahoo to protect the privacy of its users to filter out the cookie-cut inline image. How's this company supposed to charge for a service that they can't guarantee will work for every email address

Re:A bad investment (1)

takshaka (15297) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233294)

It's not hard for email services such as hotmail and yahoo to protect the privacy of its users to filter out the cookie-cut inline image.

So easy, in fact, that they already do it. When I heard the ridiculous claims from the didtheyreadit.com spokesman on NPR's Talk of the Nation last week, I immediately signed up and sent a test email to a new Yahoo account. Yahoo mail blocked the image by default.

I can't believe that anyone in their right mind would attempt to turn a spammers' trick into a legitimate business. Considering that even Outlook now has methods for defeating web bugs in email, this is obviously a dead end.

Does what it claims....which isn't much (1)

MCron (737313) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233157)

If you really read into their site, it isn't saying it will "work on anything, including hotmail, aol, yahoo!, etc" but that if you use those, it will work. In other words, it will only work if you're using a web-based client, which needless to say makes perfect sense considering the methods they're using, and the failures under Pine, etc.

Idiots. (0, Offtopic)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233159)

What a bunch of fucking numb nuts. It reminds me of the time my grandmother received a derogatory email. She called me to say that she's been receiving these for the past few weeks, all from the same address, and that she didn't know what to do. I asked her to forward it to me, but she claimed it had disappeared from her Yahoo email box. How could that be? Well, she had some neighbor, whom she claims knows a LOT about computers (yeah right), and he told her that some really smart uber-hacker put a "bomb" in her mailbox that caused that email to disappear without her deleting it. Uh, yeah. And did you know that those old 2x CD-ROM drives from, like, 1992 could write to a CD-ROM disc? (A silver, pressed one!) Yeah, some idiot told me that once, too...

In other words, anything that looks sufficiently mysterious is deemed to be magic. What a bunch of StuplePeopid.

Re:Idiots. (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233217)

You mean i'm the only one who downloaded that trojan..er...program to make my CD-ROM in to a recorder? :(

spam (1)

Tjebbe (36955) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233165)

The only real use for this service is for spam, who cares how often and for how long your message has been read? Especially since it's only reliable on a greater scale (if there are enough people using html mail with automatic loading).

I for one would personally find the first client i could get to disable this (which is any reasonable client at the moment i guess, although i did not rtfa).

I'M RICH!! (4, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233166)

Now I'm going to finally get Bill Gates and tons of other companies to finally pay up! [snopes.com]

eeevviiilll! (5, Informative)

Gaima (174551) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233174)

http://www.rampellsoft.com/ [rampellsoft.com] , the people bringing you didtheyreadit looks to me like a really evil company.

software products to make your life on a computer easier and more efficient. by secretly spying on your spouse, kids and employees.
Oh, sorry, record, my bad.

/me goes back to kmail in text/plain by default, happy, safe, and in privacy.

Smoke and mirrors (1, Redundant)

Shivantrill (654978) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233180)

This is how they do it:
<IMG height=1
src="http://didtheyreadit.com/index.php/ worker?code=787d9d69fd47aceac0e6e6225eafb831"
wid th=1>

Doubt this would work with text only readers. As far as the time open, maybe they monitor how long the img is being accessed. Kinda like a auto refresh, when does it stop.

And yes, Slashdot reported that spammers use this to determine if an email account is valid.

This would fail with GMail (5, Informative)

tji (74570) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233182)

By default, Google mail has images turned off. You have to click a link at the top of the message to force it to load the images.

Most other mailers also have a way to turn off image loading because spammers have been using this tracking technique for a long time. If mailers don't allow image blocking yet, I'm sure that a service like this will get them to add that trivial feature.

But we're blocking it anways.. (1)

Gandalfar (599790) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233183)

Since most of us already use option like 'do not show images from remote servers' inside our emails to prevent spammers from tracking us....

how much useful can this service be to slashdot crowd?

Re:But we're blocking it anways.. (3, Insightful)

JessLeah (625838) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233225)

Clearly, this service isn't being marketed to the SlashDot crowd. The very IDEA of this service reeks of "mass market", which we are not. (Though, with all the MSFT ads, we're getting closer every year. I'm just waiting until I see AOL ads on SlashDot. That'll be the day...)

quick prevention of getting tracked by this... (5, Informative)

griffjon (14945) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233189)

Not that I let my email client load images anyway, but just because I'm spiteful, I think I'll go add
"127.0.0.1 didthereadit.com" to my /etc/hosts file. (c:\windows\hosts in win98, C:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\ in XP, )

Re:quick prevention of getting tracked by this... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233289)

Perhaps add didtheyreadit.com also.

Re:quick prevention of getting tracked by this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233324)

HAHAHAHA.

Re:quick prevention of getting tracked by this... (1)

KhalidBoussouara (768934) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233322)

I have heard that if you have too many entries in the hosts file it can slow down the operating system start up. I am still looking for some solid evidence to back this up but in the meantime might it instead be a good idea to use a firewall to block these web bugs. That way you can block the IP addresses too. Advertising companies will soon catch on to the idea of the hosts file and use IP addresses for the URL's.

Instead of using:
http://localhost/image.jpg

Advertisers would use:
http://127.0.0.1/image.jpg

Re:quick prevention of getting tracked by this... (1)

ax_42 (470562) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233344)

Not that I let my email client load images anyway, but just because I'm spiteful, I think I'll go add
"127.0.0.1 didthereadit.com" to my /etc/hosts file.


Good (though unoriginal) idea, you might want to spell the domain name correctly though. Add in doubleclick.net while you're at it, too :)

Depressing... (5, Insightful)

Gutboy_Barrelhouse (260624) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233196)

Does anyone else find it depressing that the entire privacy issue this service (creates? no... inflames?) hinges on the fact that 99% of Internet users probably don't know whether they're reading email as HTML or plain text?

mwahaha (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233210)

Devious suggestion: Buy misspellings of their domain, then capture all emails you receive. Hours of fun!

Re:mwahaha (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233329)

Forward the mail just like didtheyreadit, but instead of a transparent image, insert a nice big goatse guy jpeg.

snake oil indeed. two words - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9233231)

as

if.

Better alternative (4, Informative)

mapinguari (110030) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233240)

If you're wanting to use something along these lines, a more up-front company that doesn't use invisible web bugs is HaveTheyReadItYet [havetheyreadityet.com] .

They use images of stamps, which are customizable, which is kind of a cool idea.

However, this only available for Windows.

SPAMMERS, perhaps? (4, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233244)

A whois on didtheyreadit.com shows an address in Florida.

Wouldn't this be a great way to harvest thousands or millions of known good email addresses?

The TOS only states that they will not store the emails -- yet their own logs will contain the email addresses. There is nothing in the TOS that explicitly prevents them from using those addresses.

Re:SPAMMERS, perhaps? (1)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233327)

considering that such technique(tracking if email was read by having an img tag) has been used by spammers for years it wouldn't be that surprising.

Awesome! (3, Funny)

CRC'99 (96526) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233269)

Now I'll be able to find out if the boss is actually reading my email!

heh - and he says he doesn't get it :)

Good for them, and us. (4, Insightful)

tigress (48157) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233284)

In my personal opinion, I think this might actually be a good thing. Considering the fact that didtheyreadit.com uses external images for tracking, and that they're getting a whole bunch of publicity right now (partially due to this very article), this is just another reason for email clients to block external images by default - spam apparently not being a big enough reason yet.

With a bit of luck, this will make more sites and clients want to implement image blocking, which will in turn make it harder for spammers to get their messages across.

Spam is merely an annoyance to most people. Privacy issues are not. :)

Could be useful (2, Interesting)

zerosignal (222614) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233291)

I think this would be useful for dealing with companies with poor customer service. You can check if your mail was actually read by a human. Chances are they are all using Outlook with HTML enabled, so the tracking would work.

One of many... (1)

ILL Robinson (228744) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233293)



Anyone really wanting a service such as this only needs to use the obligatory Google-plug-n-play method. [google.com]

Search results return a number of companies who advertise this service - none of which are didtheyreadit.com.

I seem to remember another company back in the Net heyday that provided the same service - assumed they went down in flames with the rest.

DNS fun... (4, Insightful)

AVee (557523) | more than 9 years ago | (#9233353)

Looks like they've got a wildcard mx record:
# host -t mx aol.com.didtheyreadit.com
aol.com.didtheyreadit.c om mail is handled by 10 mail.cluster1.didtheyreadit.com.
host -t mx lsdkfjksdlfjklsdjf.didtheyreadit.com
lsdkfjksdlfj klsdjf.didtheyreadit.com mail is handled by 10 mail.cluster1.didtheyreadit.com.
Now whould you like to pay for an email service that doesn't even have a fallback mailserver and is likely be busy handling mail for info@didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com.didtheyre adit.com.didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com
# host -t mx didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit. com.didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com
didtheyre adit.com.didtheyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com.didth eyreadit.com.didtheyreadit.com mail is handled by 10 mail.cluster1.didtheyreadit.com.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...