Election-related emails sent by major Australia political parties and other advocacy groups have been found to contain email tracking tools that invade voters’ privacy and enables them to be profiled without their consent.
According to ABC, campaign emails sent from Australian political parties, Australian Greens, the Labor, and the Liberal Party. as well as advocacy groups Advance Australia and GetUp may contain a 1×1 pixel image which may seem harmless at all.
But unknown to many, this image is actually an email tracker that gets downloaded when the email is opened. This email tracker lets the sender know personal details about the email recipient, which in this case are potential voters.
David Vaile, a data expert at the University of New South Wales said that while the email tracking is being used for surveillance purposes, it may sometime contain links that when clicked will connect the person to a Facebook and Google-owned online ad networks.
Making matters worsts is the fact that political parties are in part immune to the Privacy Act. This is due to the fact that their political campaigns are said to be data-driven.
So, what can voters do to protect them from these email tracking tools? Well, there are said to be some email services that try and protect users from trackers. This is done by blocking images by default. There are also some online tools such as Ugly Email that identifies when an email contains a tracker.
According to a Princeton University study, around 70 percent of the almost 13,000 emails it examined contained tracking technology with varying levels of security. This means that trackers can connect email addresses to browsing histories and profiles. And this, in turn, causes a breach in privacy including cross-device tracking and linking of online and offline activities.
Email tracking tools if not disabled will potentially give Australian political parties create more targeted electoral campaigns since they already know so much from Australian voters if indeed they have used pixels in the email campaigns they send to voters in their electrical lists.