Third-party developers able to scan Gmail accounts

Isaac Cain
July 4, 2018

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.

A report from the Wall Street Journal has shed light on the fact that app and software developers can access a users' Gmail account, with the ability to read emails, and that the practice is a common one across email providers. Google told The Verge, which reported on the story of the Wall Street Journal, that all companies are vetted before they are allowed to request user data. According to the sources, this "revelation" is nothing new within the industry as it is standard practice for most companies. Privacy advocates say it's too much to expect you to keep track of.

Gmail is the world's most popular email service with 1.4 billion users.

It's obvious what Google apps are - things like Chrome and Drive.

You can remove access for any service or application listed on the page and should do so for any that you don't use.

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The Journal highlights two companies that it says engages in this practice. Something else that's unclear is whether Gmail users are fully aware that individual employees may be reading their emails, as opposed to an automated system. Those included Edison Software, eDataSource Inc and Return Path. The company has read over 8,000 emails to develop its software. "As anyone who knows anything about software knows, humans program software - artificial intelligence comes directly from human intelligence", it said.

Google has not yet commented on the issue.

"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. In March, Facebook acknowledged that Cambridge Analytica, a digital consultancy that had ties to the Trump presidential campaign, improperly accessed personal information on up to 87 million of the social network's users.

The biggest takeaway, however, is that access is not restricted to computers accessing the data but that human employees may and do read emails as well. "And I think that is the big privacy violation".

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