Gmail Third-Party App Developers Allowed to Scan Your Emails by Google

Florence Fletcher
July 4, 2018

Google said that it provides data to outside developers who have been vetted and who have been granted permission by users to access their email. There's no doubt that some of the actions described, such as having employees read users' emails to train machine learning algorithms, are cause for alarm.

"As anyone who knows anything about software knows, humans program software - artificial intelligence comes directly from human intelligence", Return Path founder Matt Blumberg wrote, adding that the company takes "great care to limit who has access to the data, supervise all access to the data, deploying a Virtual Safety Room, where data can not leave this VSR and all data is destroyed after the work is completed". Developing those features isn't easy, though, and the WSJ reported that some developers read users' emails to help speed up the process.

As per a report by Business Insider, software developed by third parties are able to scan and read your Gmail, apparently without much restriction from Google.

Google was yet to comment on the report. The popular email service, which has more than one billion users around the world, gave developers outside the company access to inboxes.

People most susceptible to email skimming are those who have subscribed to various online services.

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Nearly exactly a year ago, Google promised to stop scanning your inbox to serve up ads in Gmail, but as the Journal's article details, executives of the vetted third-party companies claimed that their employees would read millions of emails and that it was "common practice".

"Data-mining companies commonly use free apps and services to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, according to current and former employees of these companies", the report said.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Google allows various third-party app developers to sift through its users Gmail messages under the guise of offering users better products and services.

The companies said they had not asked users for specific permission to read their Gmail messages, because the practice was covered by their user agreements.

Google indicated that the practice was not against its policies.

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