Just about a month ago, we heard from Google about a significant change coming to the way it handled images embedded in emails – not those sent as attachments, but ones using HTML to display inline with the rest of the message. With the old way of doing things, it automatically blocked the display of any such images from unknown senders, prompting you to choose when and if you wanted to see them. But last month Google announce a new service wherein it would serve as proxy for those images, scanning for malware, and preventing a direct connection between your computer and the sender’s servers. At the time this was only available on the desktop, but Google said that mobile implementations would arrive in the new year. Well sure enough, an update to the Android Gmail app dropped yesterday, and while the notes on Google Play still reflect the changes from the previous update, this new image policy is now available.
Just what value you see in this feature will depend on a lot of things. The malware protection may be of limited use – sure, a few exploits have been achieved with image files, but they’re quite rare – and the privacy protections are a little hit and miss. Sure, companies can no longer use their servers to figure out your IP address (and following, your rough location), but they’ll still be able to tell if you opened the mail, based on when Google retrieves any images in your stead.
The iOS Gmail app has yet to get this feature for itself, and while it should still be forthcoming, there’s no ETA of which we’re aware.