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Google tracks the links you click in Gmail very sneakily.

Author:  EmailOnDeck
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Did you know that Google tracks all the links you click on when you use from a web browser? They do it in a very sneaky way, which I will tell you about later on in this article.

We all know that Google reads, stores and analyzes every email your receive. This is the privacy you give up to use Gmail's free email service. This is why the you don't have to pay for the service.

Is allowing Google to read your emails OK?

This is a great question, with a lot of debate on both sides. On the "Yes" side, people will say that there's nothing in their emails that they don't mind people know about. They say they have nothing to hide. They also believe that their government will somehow be able to control what Google does with your information, or punish them if they use it incorrectly.

On the "No" side, people say that they don't want others to know what they are doing. It doesn't matter if the email says something as harmless as "Let's meet with the family this weekend to go to the beach." They believe that's none of Google's business. They may also think that Google will use that information in ways that are not appropriate, and their government will take too long to enforce any laws on the inappropriate way they may use your data. Basically, the harm has already been done.

Regardless of which side you lean towards, you should be aware of what's happening when you receive emails through Google's Gmail email service. This leads me back to the sneaky technique they use to try and obfuscate that they are tracking what links you click on in your email.

The sneaky technique Gmail uses

In an email, when you hover your mouse over a link, your browser will show you the actual URL you will go to. This actual URL is usually defaulted to be displayed at the bottom of your browser window.

For instance, an email may have a link that says "click here to visit Wikipedia" in the email, and when you hover your mouse over that link, the actual URL will show: "".

However, what Gmail does when you click on a link is redirect the actual URL through their website. For example like this:

In the above example the &ust and &usg parameters have been changed. We can assume that these are some sort of checksum on the &q variable as once they are changed, Google will show a notice asking if you would like to be redirected. Normally, you would be redirected without any notice. We have added Xs to the URL since we couldn't locate any documentation on these parameters and therefore needed to anonymize it just in case.

You can see all this in action by clicking on a link in your gmail and watching the URL browser redirect you to a URL that you didn't intend to go to. You'll then quickly get redirected from there to the actual URL you want expected to go to.

The irony of it all

Perhaps the most ironic part is that Google frowns on sneaky redirects, and they define it specifically as "Redirecting is the act of sending a visitor to a different URL than the one they initially requested". Yet, this is exactly what they are doing! And they are doing what they define as sneaky on a MASSIVE SCALE!

EmailOnDeck respects your privacy

EmailOnDeck does not scan your emails. They do not track which links you click on. They securely wipe the email logs.

Whether you have nothing to hide, or just care to keep your life's details private, rest assured that your privacy is respected and protect when receiving emails at

Oh, and by the way, they track your clicks on Google Docs too.

Be safe out there!

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