While users often give developers access to basic information such as their email addresses and public info, a new report touches on a “dirty secret” with Google’s Gmail — “hundreds” of third-party software developers are allowed to browse through user messages.
The report comes from the Wall Street Journal, which notes that “hundreds of millions” of emails in Gmail can be scanned by developers. Google said it would crack down on the procedure a year ago, but the WSJ claims “the internet giant continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools.”
In a followup article, Google told The Verge that the company “only gives data to vetted third-party developers and with users’ explicit consent.” Google checks a company’s identity and purpose as part of its vetting process, and requires the company to tell users emails will be monitored. But there may have been some confusion as humans — not just bots — have access to those messages.
[While you’re changing settings, check out our recent article on how to Hide Your Location from various websites and apps.]
One such company was Edison Software, which had access to user emails. Edison Software told The Verge in a statement: “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.”
Of course, this may not just be a Gmail problem. Any email platform in which users grant developers access to their emails may have similar issues.
Change Your Settings
Gmail users can find out what companies have access to their email on Google’s Permissions page. There, you can make any changes you deem necessary — we’d recommend revoking any full access to email. (Using your Google account to sign into other sites and apps may not reveal the same amount of data, but check to be sure.)