Gmail messages 'read by human third parties'

Gmail messages 'read by human third parties'

Google has confirmed anyone who has linked third-party apps to their accounts may have unknowingly allowed third-party developers to read their private emails. Any of Gmail's 1.3 billion users who have connected their email addresses to apps may have unknowingly given those apps permission to read their communications.

The companies said they had not asked users for specific permission to read their Gmail messages, because the practice was covered by their user agreements. Although most of the work is still done by computers, in one case, a company called "Return Path" allowed some 8,000 emails to be read, unaltered, by its employees.

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

Gmail's opt-in alert spells out generally what a user is agreeing to. "We have since stopped this practice and expunged all such data in order to stay consistent with our company's commitment to achieving the highest standards possible for ensuring privacy".

Last year, Google assured its users that its computers would stop scanning emails and keep the privacy and security paramount. The company recently rolled out new features for Gmail in a bid to make it easier for users to navigate their account and review security and privacy options. The increased scrutiny follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a data firm was accused of misusing the personal information of more than 80 million Facebook users in an attempt to sway elections.

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But you should make sure you trust the apps and developers that have such access to your accounts and that you are only giving them as much access as they need.

The report said a former officer for eDataSource Inc. said that having employees read someone else's emails is "common practice" for data collectors.

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

It's interesting to note that, judging from The Journal's story, very little indicates that Google is doing anything different from Microsoft or other top email providers.

While these kind of apps do ask for user consent, numerous forms don't make it explicitly clear that a human will be reading through your emails, not just a machine.

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