Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Tech | By Anita Cain

Third-parties may read your Google Mail emails if you allow it

Third-parties may read your Google Mail emails if you allow it

A new report says Google allows third-party applications to scan the emails of some Gmail users. The first is Return Path, an app that analyzes inboxes of users who have signed up for one of the free apps in its partner network using a Gmail, Microsoft Corp. or Yahoo email address.

In some cases, according the the WSJ report, staff at the companies were able to read and scan private emails to target adverts.

Google's system allows or disallows access to the email data only; the company makes no distinction between algorithms that read emails, for instance to provide functionality, and humans who read it. Some allow people to write emails in special fonts, or to make it easier to find images to send to others, while others make it easier for people to organise their emails into folders.

Google said only companies that had been vetted could access messages, and only if users had "explicitly granted permission to access email".

Oath said access to email data was "on a case-by-case basis" and needed "express consent" from users. Considering Gmail has 1.4 billion users, that is a vast pool of private data that is out for sale.

Using a service like Gmail puts you at the mercy of companies like Google.

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. A huge scandal developed, however, when one developer sold data on tens of millions of users to a research firm that served political campaigns.

They include Return Path, a company that collects data for advertisers, and email organisation tool Edison Software. Edison Software did the same for "hundreds of users" when building a new feature, the paper says.

In Google's case, outside developers must pass a vetting process, and as part of that, Google ensures they have an acceptable privacy agreement, The Journal reported, citing a Google representative. In turn, some developers say they're not aware of any oversight from Google. Google itself is very strict about giving employees access to emails and limits it to situations where a security issue or bug requires it, or when users give Google explicit permission to do so according to the Wall Street Journal.

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