How to Know if Someone has Read Your Email or Not

How to Know if Someone has Read Your Email or Not

How to Know if Someone has Read Your Email or Not

At times, when you send emails, you expect to hear back quickly. This is especially true in case of important or time sensitive emails. However, it may so happen, that time passes by but reply remains elusive. You may start wondering whether the intended recipient has even read your email or is deliberately ignoring you?  

Fortunately, there are ways to know whether your email has been read or not. The methods involved can be broadly divided into:

  • Method 1: Using read receipt / return receipt feature of email providers 
  • Method 2: Using email tracking tool/ websites e.g., Get Notify

Method 1: 
What are Read Receipts?
The “read receipts” feature tells the sender the exact time the mail was read. To do so, the feature automatically triggers when the recipient accesses the message and prompts him/ her to send the read receipt. However, the recipient can deny the request thereby defeating the very purpose for which read receipt has been created. 

Pros and Cons of Read Receipt Feature: 
Before delving deeper into how to use the capability, let’s first understand its benefit and limitations. 

Benefits/ Pros of Read Receipt Feature: 

  • Native Feature: By using the native email return receipt feature you need not depend on additional solution like email tracking tools. It protects you from threats associated with use of third party websites, most prominent being data breaches.  
  • Simple: Most email providers have simple interface to enable and use read receipts. 
  • Time and cost effective: Creation of account with website or placing trackers in emails is a time consuming process. Therefore native email features, saves our time. Also third party solutions are generally paid version vis-à-vis free read receipt feature of several email providers.  

Cons/ Negatives of Read Receipt Feature:
In most email platforms, a recipient can simply opt out of sending a return receipt, which renders the feature almost useless. Therefore, there is no surety of getting back the required information even if the recipient reads your email. 

Not all email providers support this return receipt capability. For example, free version of Gmail doesn’t support this feature. It may force you to look for additional solutions like

Some recipient even consider email return receipt request, as invasion into their online privacy. This can hamper professional or personal relations. 

How to Use Read Receipt Feature:

The free version of Gmail does not support this feature however it’s available for GSuite users. You must activate this capability by following the below mentioned steps: 

Step 1: Go to GSuite Admin Console 
Step 2: Select Apps >GSuite >Settings for Gmail >Advanced Settings. It then displays the Advanced Settings screen. 
Step 3: Use scroll bar on the right side of the screen, to scroll down until you see “Email Read Receipts” option. 
Step 4: Tap on the toggle button to the left side of – “Allow email read receipts to be sent to all addresses in my organization as well as the following email addresses”. 

Once the option is activated, users can request read receipts from recipients of the mail. If the recipient consents, you shall get a notification email as soon as the mail is opened. It’s worth noting that a read request is sent to every recipient in the “To” and “CC” field, but not to the recipients in the “Bcc” field, mailing lists or aliases. 

Now What?
Once the “Read Receipt” capability is activated – 

  • Compose your email as usual 
  • Click on the down arrow in the lower right corner to display a pop-up menu: How to tell whether an email has been read in the Gmail. 
  • Tap on the “Request read receipt” option from the pop-up menu. 
  • Finally, click on the Send button to complete the process. 

With read receipt feature enabled, your recipient will be prompted to send a receipt when they open the message. 

Using Request Receipt Feature in Mozilla Thunderbird: 
To turn on Return receipts feature of Mozilla’s Thunderbird -  

  • Step 1: Click “Tools” on the top menu bar >Click “Options”. 
  • Step 2: On the General tab click on "Return Receipts". 

It will enable you to find whether your email has been read or not. However, similar to Gmail, a recipient can choose to deny or accept the return receipt request. 

You can also configure the return receipts on individual emails. To do so - when composing an email click on “Options” on the top menu bar and then select “Return Receipts and or Delivery Notification”

Method 2: 
Email Tracking Websites:
As discussed earlier, read receipts request can be perceived as infringement on privacy by the recipient. Also, consider a scenario where the recipient is deliberately ignoring you. Then, he/ she would surely deny read receipts. Therefore, you need customized solutions to gather the required details without any active involvement of the recipient. 

Fortunately, there are a number of extensions that provide a reliable solution to the problem. The tracking feature works without your recipient allowing or even realizing that your emails are being tracked.

Get Notify:
As discussed beforehand, this feature also enables us to know whether the message has been read by the intended recipient. But similar to native mail features, it offers some advantages and dis-advantages. 

Advantages: 

  • The method provides the requisite information, without the recipient even knowing or actively permitting the feature. 
  • The feature provides more information than what most read receipt feature of email services provide. For example, Get Notify can also provide information about Operating System, IP address etc. 
  • Many email that do not offer free read receipt capability e.g., Gmail. But you can use the free Get Notify feature to accomplish the task.

How is Tracking Done? 
The tracking of email messages is done with the help of web beacon. A Web beacon in turn is an often-transparent graphic image, usually no larger than 1 pixel x 1 pixel. It is placed in the sent email and is often used in combination with cookies.

The web beacons besides tracking the opening of email messages, can also track other relevant information of the user including:

  • User’s IP address
  • User's geographical location
  • Whether message was viewed for a length of time or
  • Whether the message was deleted right away

This service is completely free and does not necessarily require Gmail as the email provider. However, free account is limited to only five email messages tracking per day. 

What is the Procedure for Tracking?
The procedure for tracking involves:

Step 1: Creation of an account with the Get Notify website i.e, https://www.getnotify.com/signup/

The process requires the following details:
1.    Email address
2.    First Name
3.    Last Name
4.    Password
5.    Country and
6.    Time Zone

Step 2: Send email as usual, but add “getnotify.com” after each email recipient. E.g, instead of sending mail to a valid account like example@gmail.com, send email to example@gmail.com.getnotify.com. This forces the email messages to go through the Get Notify’s servers which then routes the messages to the intended addresses.  

Step 3: Get Notify server adds a web beacon to the mail intended for the target. When the email recipient opens the message, this beacon gets downloaded. Thus it enables Get Notify to find the aforesaid mentioned information. 

Step 4: Get Notify notifies the user about the “information gathered” through an email. Alternatively, the user can view the log files from the online account created at “getnotify.com”. You can log into the Get Notify account by directing navigating to the link https://www.getnotify.com/signin/.

It’s worth knowing that, the web beacon inserted by the Get Notify servers and the term “getnotify.com” at the end of the email addresses, are both invisible to the target.   

Optionally, the users after signing into the website can specify their own images to be used as tracking images by going to the preference section. If the user wants to send a single email to multiple targets, he/she should add “getnotify.com” at the end of every email-address. 

Finally, we shall conclude by reading real life examples of email tracking. 

Real Life Applications of Tracking:
To guage the mood of the recipient: The way a particular email is treated – deleted right away or read again and again for longer duration of  time, conveys different emotions, feeling and mood, isn’t it? To elucidate it further, consider this example. Suppose you had a fight with your spouse, who is physically away. Now, you send him/ her a mail and in return you get no replies. By using GetNotify you can know how the mail was treated, which can serve as near accurate barometer of situation prevailing the other side. Therefore, consider sending email with an attachment and see whether the attachment was downloaded! Hope you got the point. 

By Law Enforcement Agencies: Individuals need to track email, especially time sensitive emails. In fact, these email tracking services are popular among advertisers. However, they are not the only class of persons, who depend on email tracking for professional benefit. Law Enforcement Authorities also reap benefit of email tracking as services like Get Notify can also potentially provide the IP address of the recipient. 

As digital evidence: To ensure conviction in Court of law, police officers often need to prove the case beyond preponderance of possibilities or in some cases beyond reasonable doubt. To secure conviction LEAs may need to prove that the email was read by the accused, as part of the prosecution evidence. Similarly defendants tend to use these email tracking tool to prove a particular point in the Court of law.  

To know individual opinion: To accomplish this, simply send two emails, covering both the extremes. For example, send a liberal and conservative mail. Based on the way the email is treated, you can know the political opinion of the person.    

The utility of these tools depends on your creativity. For example, you may need to send an email about a meeting at the very last moment. By using Get Notify, you can find the individual who have read the message and those who needs to be informed via call about the meeting scheduled. 

Conclusion:
This feature can be compared to WhatsApp feature, which allows the sender to know, whether the recipient has consumed the message. Most of users have practically used this feature of messenger app. And the same you can now apply to email messages.