Google at one point reassured their users to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount,” according to the Wall Street Journal. Did you believe them? If so, you might be too naive and trusting. In fact, hundreds of outside developers, or third-parties, reportedly have access to your emails as we speak. And if you were one of the many people who signed up for email-based services, you may have unwittingly given access to your private information without realizing it.
About a year ago, Google was under fire for allegedly scanning Gmail messages for “ad-targeting purposes.” However, the practice was ended after people expressed their anger about having their privacy invaded. That was when Google released a statement reassuring everyone that privacy and security were incredibly important to the company.
But a year later, it’s coming out in the open that Google gives unprecedented access to third-party developers to people’s personal information. And if you’re imagining that machines are scanning your emails, that’s not entirely true. For example, in the case of an app called Return Path, human employees reportedly read 8,000 emails in order to develop their “smart reply” feature.
Similarly, the developers for Edison Software’s Edison Mail app for iOS had human workers read “thousands” of emails, also to develop their “smart reply” feature. Edison has stated that they no longer allow messages to be read, and reiterated that anything that was read was “a small sample of de-identified messages for R&D purposes.”
WSJ: Google lets hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users and does little to police developers, who train their computers—and, in some cases, employees—to read their users’ emails https://t.co/lwxN9J99kd— David P Gelles (@gelles) July 3, 2018
Moreover, Google employees may be reading your emails too. They said that it’s only done in “very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse,” according to Techspot.
Although some companies may have used personal messages to develop features, it’s also probable that companies create apps in order to gain access to the breadth of information. This is because emails give companies incredibly valuable data, such as more information on consumer behavior, as reported by Insider.
With all this in mind, Gmail users may want to take the time to review what apps have access to their accounts. Simply go to the “Sign-in & Security” section, then click on “Apps with account access.” This will list all of the apps that have access to your account information. While it’s difficult to know what app developers are actually delving into the email messages, it’s probably worthwhile to vet the companies to ensure they’re trustworthy.