Not long-ago Google pledged to stop scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for advertising purposes, however, it continues to allow outside app developers to read users’ private Gmail messages.

A recent report emphasises that Gmail’s emails are exposed to hundreds of third-party developers. The app developers can read everything in your Gmail inbox- all the emails that you send and receive using Gmail, including the recipient’s e-mail ID, timestamps and the entire email content.

How is this happening and why is it allowed

Google lets third-party app developers build services that work with its Gmail platform.

Users can connect these third-party apps to their Google accounts. Those that have, may have unintentionally consented to third-party developers accessing their Gmail inboxes and reading their emails.

Millions of users who have signed up for any of these services are at risk of having their private messages read by outside app developers and their employees.

Google has confirmed that this is happening but has said that it is within the scope of its policies and that users grant permission to third parties when linking external services to their accounts. These permissions may include giving third parties the ability to read, send, delete, and manage their email. Really? Is that something a user would knowingly agree to?

It’s taking users by surprise

There is an issue with this situation. The majority of users are not aware that the third-party companies are actually reading their personal email. Using an algorithm to scan emails for keywords is one thing but allowing employees to read thousands of personal emails is another. Surely, users would not knowingly allow this to happen!

Although users must consent for this to happen, it does seem underhanded as users are not really aware that they have authorised this practice. Consent is required but it is not made explicitly clear that a human will be reading their emails.

There are approximately 1.4 billion Gmail users, this should not be allowed to happen!

Companies confirm they read users’ emails

Several companies have confirmed reviewing users’ emails for various purposes.

Edison Software, the company behind the mail app for iOS, confirmed it reviewed thousands of emails to build its software features. eDataSource Inc. confirmed letting engineers review emails to improve its algorithms.

Google states that only vetted companies who have obtained user consent can access the emails. Google and the third-party companies involved believe the practice is all above board.

Steps to regain control of your data and your privacy

Firstly, it may be wise to review the third-party services linked to your Gmail account and make sure that you are happy with the permissions granted to the companies involved. You can remove access from the third-party apps that you no longer need or that you find to be unreliable. This can be done on your Google ‘My Account’ page.

Secondly, it’s probably a good time to consider encrypting your email and protecting the data that you value and with something other than Google or Microsoft technologies. As it’s becoming more and more obvious that if you don’t take proactive measures to protect your information, no one else will do it for you.

What’s most frustrating about the whole situation is that it is easily avoidable. Email encryption prevents anyone other than the recipient from being able to read your emails. So, there’s no reason for situations like this to still be an issue.

If you needed another reason to use Galaxkey – here it is!


News source: BBC and The Wall Street Journal