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Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users

03 July 2018
Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users

Last year, the company promised to stop reading the emails of Gmail users in this manner but, as a report from the Wall Street Journal suggests, the company is still allowing third-party developers full access to your emails.

The Wall Street Journal, which was the first to point this out, called it "tech's dirty secret" that has been kept under wraps for a long time. However, installing them hands the app developers.

Letting employees read user emails has become "common practice" for companies that collect this type of data, says Thede Loder, the former chief technology officer at eDataSource Inc., a rival to Return Path.

While several app developers have termed this a "common practice" where humans access user data to develop machine algorithms, Google is yet to ensure that user data will not be compromised in a Facebook-Cambridge Analytica manner.

The report has specifically mentioned two apps in its report, Return Path and Edison Software.

Users need to give explicit consent to applications or services, and if that happens through a token-based system that Google uses for this kind of authorization, it does happen without users having to supply their username or password to these companies.

Two third-party apps have come under particular scrutiny.

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. This is in contrast with what Google promised past year, where it said that it would stop reading its users email messages, which might be true, but it has done very little to stop other partner organisations from doing so.

Google said only companies that had been vetted could access messages, and only if users had "explicitly granted permission to access email".

Google allows users to connect third-party services to their accounts, and it's here the problems arise.

Google users may authorize companies to access account data.

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.

Many software developers also said they go through inboxes to improve the user experience.