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Google lets third-party developers read users’ private Gmail messages

04 July, 2018, 07:29 | Author: Arnold Gilbert
  • Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of 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.

The Wall Street Journal spoke to a number of companies that said they had read people's emails.

In a statement, a Google rep said that the practice involved only vetted companies and that users are willingly agreeing to it, as they submit their accounts to this when granting apps email access. 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.

It pointed the BBC to its developer policies, which state: "There should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed objective of your application may lead Google to suspend your ability to access Google API Services".

The outside app companies receive access to messages from Gmail users who signed up for things like price-comparison services or automated travel-itinerary planners, according to The Journal. No, it's not Google, this time around, but this privacy-infringing feature does affect Gmail, which happens to be the world's top email service.

Google allows software developers from outside the company to read through users' inboxes. The increased scrutiny follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a data firm was accused of misusing the personal information of more than 80 million Facebook users in an attempt to sway elections.

One is Return Path, an app that collects data for marketers from users' inboxes.

Hundreds of app developers electronically "scan" inboxes of the people who signed up for some of these programs, and in some cases, employees do the reading, the paper reported.

But you should make sure you trust the apps and developers that have such access to your accounts and that you are only giving them as much access as they need. In turn, some developers say they're not aware of any oversight from Google.

Neither of these two companies sought explicit permission from the users to read their emails but say that it is covered under their user agreements.

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