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

Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users

Before you freak out, you should know that you've probably given your consent to those apps scanning your inbox, and, thus, having computers automatically go through your emails.

When news broke this week that Google was letting Gmail app developers scan and even read your email, we heard what's become Silicon Valley's usual excuse: This is what you signed up for.

A year ago, Google promised to stop scanning the inboxes of Gmail users but the company has not done much to protect Gmail inboxes obtained by outside software developers, according to the newspaper. The company has read over 8,000 emails to develop its software. Google declined to comment.

Gmail has about 1.4 billion users while Microsoft and Oath, the group formed after Verizon bough Yahoo!, are the next two biggest email providers.

Ostensibly, Google only allows vetted third-party developers to request such permissions, and the intention of these companies is to use this information for targeted shopping suggestions and advertising, but the concern remains over how closely these companies are monitored once they've been granted access. 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.

"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.

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

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

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.

Google indicated that the practice was not against its policies.

Despite assuring users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount", the search giant is still reportedly allowing third-party app developers scan through Gmail accounts, the Wall Street Journal has claimed.

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