Remote Content in Messages

What is remote content and why is it blocked?

Remote content are parts of a message (such as images, stylesheets, or videos) which are not included in the message itself, but are downloaded from the Internet when you view the message.

Remote content is a privacy concern because it allows the message sender to know:

  • each time you view the message
  • rough details about what application and what platform you are using
  • your current geographic location (a rough approximation by IP address)
  • that your email address is actually used (“active”)

This is almost the same information websites commonly collect about you during normal web surfing. While browsing has the same privacy implications, what makes remote content in messages different is that it is targeted at you initially, so you can assume your access is directly linkable to your email address. This is also why spam often contains remote images (also known as “web bugs”) which allow the spammer to mark your address as valid if the image is ever loaded.

How does Thunderbird protect my privacy?

By default, Thunderbird blocks, and does not download, remote content so that the sender does not get any information about you. Instead, it displays a notification bar with the message  To protect your privacy, Thunderbird has blocked remote content in this message.

Remote content blocked

Display remote content for a particular message, sender or website

If you trust the sender, you can allow remote content to be downloaded. Emails look much better with images and stylesheets turned on. To load remote content, click Options in the notification bar and select one of the following options:

Remote content blocking options Win TB45

  • Show remote content in this message to show remote content just for this particular message;
  • Edit remote content options to display remote content by default (see next section);
  • Allow remote content from <website> to show the remote content stored on this site (to load remote content from all sites the message refers to, click Allow remote content from all origins listed above);
  • Allow remote content from <email address> to show the remote content for all messages from this sender.