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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky
Volume 13 Issue 5
May 2019
Don't Forward Another Email Newsletter Until You Learn How to Protect Your Subscription


You have probably forwarded emails to other people many times, especially when you have received something that you know someone else would appreciate or find useful. However, you may not realize that there are some potential consequences to you when you forward an email newsletter. Read on for my advice on what you should know about this and what you can do about it.

The problem with forwarding email newsletters

If you're going to forward an email that contains links that would let someone else access an account of yours, be sure to delete those links before you send that forwarded email.

A very common example of this is when you forward an email newsletter (like mine) to someone who might find it helpful or fun to read.

The biggest problem is the "unsubscribe" link in that email. If you don't remove it from the body of the forwarded message before clicking Send, you've giving that other person (or anyone else to whom they might send that message) the ability to terminate your subscription, usually with just a click or two. If that happens, even if it was an accident, the newsletter service will think that you did it voluntarily, so you probably won't get any notice or confirmation. That email newsletter will just stop arriving in your inbox for no apparent reason, and given how much email we all get, you probably won't notice, at least not right away.

More about the special types of links in email newsletters

You can put a link to a web page or online photo or video into any email to share it with others. Those links are generic, i.e., you would send the same link to any number of people.

On the other hand, email newsletters that you receive (including mine) typically have 3 special types of links that are customized by the newsletter service to identify you personally:
  • Open tracking: These image links (which you don't click) are the newsletter service's attempt to detect when you open any particular email newsletter issue. They typically consist of a link to a transparent, single-pixel image stored on the email newsletter company's web site, so they're not visible when you're reading any particular newsletter. However, instead of specifying the generic address of that image (e.g., example.com/image.gif), the link includes additional information that identifies your particular email subscription (e.g., example.com/ExtraStuff/image.gif). The idea is that when you open the email, just like any other linked image in an email, your email program asks the server for that image, and the extra information in that link tells the server that you opened that newsletter.
  • Link tracking: Similarly, if the newsletter issue has links (which you might click) to other web pages (e.g., related articles, products, surveys, etc.), those links will often have extra embedded information that tells the newsletter server that you clicked them. So, if you click such links in a newsletter, the service can track which ones you clicked, and that also tells them that you opened that particular email.
  • Unsubscribe link: Every legitimate newsletter also has a link which you can use to cancel (and sometimes adjust) your subscription, and these links often include extra information that identifies you, which makes the process quick and easy.
So, when you forward an email newsletter to someone else, your email program copies that message into a new one for you to address and send. This will mean that:
  • Open tracking: Each time your recipient opens that forwarded message, the newsletter service will think that you opened it.
  • Link tracking: Similarly, each time your recipient clicks a link in that forwarded email, it will register with the service as if you clicked that link.
  • Unsubscribe link: If your recipient clicks that link, they will unsubscribe you from that newsletter list, probably without your knowledge or permission.
While you may not care much about whether the newsletter service thinks that you opened that forwarded newsletter or clicked one of its links when it was really someone else, you shouldn't risk someone else clicking an unsubscribe link that would terminate your subscription, so you should delete that link before forwarding.

Where to go from here
How to contact me:
email: martin@kadansky.com
phone: (617) 484-6657
web: http://www.kadansky.com

On a regular basis I write about real issues faced by typical computer users. To subscribe to this newsletter, please send an email to martin@kadansky.com and I'll add you to the list, or visit http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Did you miss a previous issue? You can find it in my newsletter archive: http://www.kadansky.com/newsletter

Your privacy is important to me. I do not share my newsletter mailing list with anyone else, nor do I rent it out.

Copyright (C) 2019 Kadansky Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved.

I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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