Google will now display images by default in Gmail because it says it has developed a system that protects message recipients from potentially dangerous photos and graphics.
With the new system, Google will display Gmail message images from its proxy servers, instead of from the servers where the emails originate. In this way, Google transcodes the images so that senders then can't use them to retrieve recipients' IP address and location, nor to set or read browser cookies.
"Your messages are more safe and secure, your images are checked for known viruses or malware, and you'll never have to press that pesky 'display images below' link again," wrote John Rae-Grant, a Google product manager, in a blog post.
If Gmail suspects a message or sender is malicious, it won't display those images, reverting instead to asking users whether they want to see the images.
Users who want to continue authorizing the display of images on a message-by-message basis can do so by checking the "Ask before displaying external images" option in the settings menu. It's also possible for users to configure Gmail to always show or block images in messages originating from specific senders.
Google will begin rolling out this feature Thursday on the version of Gmail for desktop browsers. Gmail mobile apps will get it early next year.
It remains to be seen whether Gmail critics will object to this new feature over privacy concerns, given that Google will apparently be interacting with message images more than it has in the past, including delivering them from its image proxy servers.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.
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