Tech's 'dirty secret': App developers are sifting through your Gmail

04 July, 2018, 00:50 | Author: Darren Santiago
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The Internet giant recently rolled out new features for Android users to make it easier for them to navigate their Gmail accounts and review security and privacy options.

Google said only companies that had been vetted could access messages, and only if users had "explicitly granted permission to access email". However, new information surfaced in a report by The Wall Street Journal, that this practice is not only continuing, but emails are also read by employees of various third party app developers.

As per a report by Business Insider, software developed by third parties are able to scan and read your Gmail, apparently without much restriction from Google. Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said in an email that companies including Google and Facebook need take responsibility for how software developers leverage your data. We suggested the very same thing previous year after a big Google Docs phishing scam hit Google users.

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". 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.

You can opt out of data sharing in some cases - or you can stop using the service.

The report said at one point, Return Path workers read about 8000 unredacted emails to train their company's scanning software.

Two of its artificial-intelligence engineers signed agreements not to share anything they read, [CEO Mikael] Berner says. The Journal mentions two companies that have such practices in place, including Return Path, a marketing company, and Edison Software, which makes a mobile email app. Some companies may request access to "read, send, delete, and manage your email" which gives them full access to emails on Gmail.

Although Return Path declined to comment on details of the incident, it did say it sometimes lets employees see emails when fixing problems with its algorithms.

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