Google Says App Companies Can Read Your Gmail

Ruben Fields
September 23, 2018

Google itself stopped scanning Gmail content for ad targeting in 2017.

This is different than scanning Gmail for data to be used for ad targeting, a practice that Google put a halt to a year ago. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that hundreds of outside software developers can still search through your inbox via Gmail add-ons and mobile apps if you've agreed to install them. In one instance, 8,000 emails were read by analysts at one app provider to help train the company's software.

The committee is expected to question the companies on their consumer-data privacy practices.

The lawmakers cited media reports and said there had been suggestions that third-party applications have access to and use this non-triggered data without disclosure to users.

However, Google has told lawmakers that the company has protections in place to prevent potential abuse.

Google told US senators it still allows third-party app developers who work with Gmail and build software to scan user inboxes, even though it has stopped processing Gmail messages to target ads, the Wall Street Journal reports.

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Google said in a letter to US senators made public on Thursday that it relies on automated scans and reports from security researchers to monitor add-ons after launch, but did not respond to lawmakers' request to say how many have been caught violating the company's policies.

"Once they have been given access, we use machine learning (AI-powered software algorithms) to monitor those apps", Molinari added. You can also look up which apps have access to your information by clicking on "Apps with account access" on your account settings, and revoke any permissions previously granted. "If we detect significant changes in the behavior of the app after it has been approved, we will once again manually review the app".

Even though Google claims that emails are typically read in an automated manner, humans also have access to it - which is a disturbing fact.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told the WSJ that Google's privacy policy model is "simply broken beyond repair".

Google's letter came in response to a request by Republican senators for information about the scope of the email content accessible to these third parties.

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