Google Lets App Developers Read Your Gmail

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Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users

Last year, the company promised to stop reading the emails of Gmail users in this manner but, as a report from the Wall Street Journal suggests, the company is still allowing third-party developers full access to your emails.

One company told the Wall Street Journal that the practice was "common" and a "dirty secret". Companies may reveal additional details about how data is processed but most users don't read privacy policies, terms of service, and other legal documents prior to allowing access to their data or installing applications.

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".

The report has specifically mentioned two apps in its report, Return Path and Edison Software.

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.

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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". In other words: if you grant a company access to your email data, it may be that human employees read it.

Two third-party apps have come under particular scrutiny.

Google said a year ago it would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements, saying it wanted users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount". The search giant even rolled out new features for Android users that give them better control over privacy settings in their Gmail accounts. Although most of the work is still done by computers, in one case, a company called "Return Path" allowed some 8,000 emails to be read, unaltered, by its employees. Both the app makers say their practices are covered in the user agreements.

Another firm - eDataSource Inc - said engineers had previously reviewed emails to improve its algorithms.

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