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Google lets 3rd-party app developers read your emails

04 July 2018

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 report further states that not only can the companies developing products and services read users private emails, it also includes all their employees too. It is said to have allowed its employees access to "thousands" of user emails to help develop the app's Smart Reply feature. Some allow people to write emails in special fonts, or to make it easier to find images to send to others, while others make it easier for people to organise their emails into folders. If you want to be able to use a mail app on your computer to manage your Gmail account or your Google calendar, it needs to be able to read and delete messages or appointments. "Return Path is an app that collects data for marketers by analysing users" inbox emails.

Google's system allows or disallows access to the email data only; the company makes no distinction between algorithms that read emails, for instance to provide functionality, and humans who read it. Developers swear that manual access is used only оn rare and special occasions and is exclusively to improve customer experience, but we've heard that reasoning enough times to know it's just something PR representatives are forced to say.

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

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The Journal highlights two companies that it says engages in this practice.

Fatemeh Khatibloo, and analyst at Forrester, said tech companies need to make clear to users what the tradeoff is for receiving services for free.

Both Return Path and Edison Software said they've now stopped the practice. The company has read over 8,000 emails to develop its software.

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Google didn't respond to a request for comment.

Two third-party apps have come under particular scrutiny. 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. She noted that if she'd emailed someone who was using Return Path or Edison, its employees could have read her emails, too. "And I think that is the big privacy violation".

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Google lets 3rd-party app developers read your emails