Tuesday, 18 September, 2018

Gmail and other services let third parties read users' emails

Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users App developers have been reading your Gmail, and it's alarmingly common
Troy Mann | 03 July, 2018, 19:57

The Wall Street Journal published what seemed like a bombshell report about developers being able to read your emails if you give them access to your Gmail account.

The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to point this out, called it "tech's dirty secret" that has been kept under wraps for a long time.

The third-party developers who have access to Gmail user data allegedly share them with marketers, hedge funds and other businesses. Google said it doesn't usually-employees are said to read emails only when they need to to squash bugs or fix security flaws-but the reality is that Gmail users have little say over who at Google can read their email.

Google indicated that the practice was not against its policies.

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As per a statement issued to The Verge, Google said it provides data only to outside developers it has vetted and to whom users have explicitly granted permission to access email. "We have since stopped this practice and expunged all such data in order to stay consistent with our company's commitment to achieving the highest standards possible for ensuring privacy".

But the Journal found that Google "continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools".

These IT employees are permitted to use systems or even other workers to read user emails. This is in contrast with what Google promised previous year, where it said that it would stop reading its users email messages, which might be true, but it has done very little to stop other partner organisations from doing so. An executive at another company said employees' reading of emails had become "common practice".

Last year, Google said that it will keep the privacy of its users paramount and would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements. While many of these companies in question utilise machines to go through users emails for keywords and phrases, some of them have it done manually by their employees. A Microsoft spokesperson said developers were not allowed to access customer data without consent.

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