An eMail newsletter privacy analysis framework

privacymail, updated 🕥 2022-01-22 15:01:02


PrivacyMail is an eMail privacy analysis system. For more information about the platform, visit


PrivacyMail is a Django-based website. The ansible folder contains a deployment script that uses Ansible. See the README in that folder for additional details on what you need to set up to allow the system to deploy correctly. There are also some additional manual steps involved in setting up the necessary cronjobs to automate the retrieval and analysis of eMails. These steps are also described in the README file.


If you want to do some local development, you will need to set up your own privacymail/privacymail/ See ansible/templates/ for the template. Make sure to replace all statements that look like {{ lookup( [...] ) }}, as these are directives that are interpreted by Ansible during the deployment process.

As a minimum, you will need to set up a virtualenv, install the dependencies from the requirements.txt file, set up the settings file as mentioned above, and provide the system with a Postgres database (docker works fine here). Afterwards, run the database migrations, and you should be good to go. However, in this setup, you will be unable to analyze eMails. For this, you will also need to set up OpenWPM (included as a submodule in this git repository) and configure eMail servers in For details on the OpenWPM setup, check the ansible deployment playbook.


PrivacyMail is licensed under the GPLv3 license.


If you use PrivacyMail in a scientific project, please cite our paper at the Annual Privacy Forum 2019:

@article{PrivacyMail, title = {{Towards Transparency in Email Tracking}}, author = {Maass, Max and Schwär, Stephan and Hollick, Matthias}, journal = {Annual Privacy Forum}, year = {2019} }


The creation of PrivacyMail was funded in part by the DFG as part of project C.1 within the RTG 2050 "Privacy and Trust for Mobile Users".


Bump node-fetch from 2.6.0 to 3.1.1 in /privacymail/website

opened on 2022-01-22 15:01:01 by dependabot[bot]

Bumps node-fetch from 2.6.0 to 3.1.1.

Release notes

Sourced from node-fetch's releases.


Security patch release

Recommended to upgrade, to not leak sensitive cookie and authentication header information to 3th party host while a redirect occurred

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Sourced from node-fetch's changelog.


All notable changes will be recorded here.

The format is based on Keep a Changelog, and this project adheres to Semantic Versioning.

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Maintainer changes

This version was pushed to npm by endless, a new releaser for node-fetch since your current version.

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Highlight known tracking hosts

opened on 2019-06-05 08:42:19 by malexmave

We should use existing tracker blocking lists and highlight "known-tracking" hosts in the results. While they have been shown to be incomplete, they are a point to start.

Ensure only valid http[s] links are clicked

opened on 2019-06-04 11:55:55 by malexmave

The crawler currently also attempts to click whatsapp:// and similar proprietary protocol links. We should ensure that only valid http[s] links are attempted.

3rd party detection on link click incorrect

opened on 2019-05-29 13:51:27 by malexmave

The 3rd party detection when clicking links is currently a bit flaky. When a newsletter links out to a different page, like Twitter, we try to avoid putting the final destination of the link on the "contacted 3rd parties" list, assuming that users know what they are getting into when clicking such a link.

However, the way this is currently implemented only removes the last request from the log. If the service forwards internally before (i.e. newsletter => =>, Twitter will still be added as a third party.

Proposed solution: Do not save the request chain to the database directly. Instead, create local objects for each request, and once the end of the chain was reached and we determine that should be deleted from the chain, traverse the list backwards and delete all instanced of from the chain. Save the remaining requests into the database.

Additional problem: Existing mails already have this artifact in their dataset. We will either need to re-crawl all emails (with all the problems that entails), or write a clean-up script that finds these dangling references and deletes them (without deleting actual tracking stuff). I have one or two ideas on how to achieve that, but will have to play around with it for a while to see if it works.

Analyzer Cronjob occasionally refuses to start

opened on 2019-05-29 10:02:48 by malexmave

The analyzer cron occasionally refuses to start, not even reaching the first statement of the do() function. Experience has shown that clearing the cache solves this problem. We need to figure out what cache entry causes the problem, and find a way to fix it.