All this HP "Pattymail" news is really making the rounds in the email marketing world. People are discussing whether companies should disclose the fact that they’re using "web beacons" to track email opens (web beacons are tiny graphics embedded in HTML email, that when downloaded, tell the marketer if the email was opened). ZDNet has a pretty thorough article covering this issue here.
So for all you small businesses who have been too busy working to keep up with this stuff, here’s a quick summary of what all the experts are saying.
- If you track who opens your emails, AND you actually provide that information to any 3rd parties or something weird like that, then you should probably give your users the option to "opt-out" of your web beacons. Remember your bank sending you opt-out forms by snail-mail?
- You might even want to disclose your use of web beacons in the footer of your emails. We think this is a good idea for big companies who need to look "official" but it’s overkill if you’re a little company sending a simple email newsletter every month. Yahoo’s been doing this in their emails since at least 2005. Here’s a screenshot of one of their emails: