Don't worry, Google thoroughly vets the app developers who read your email

Joanna Estrada
September 21, 2018

In a letter to USA senators Susan Molinari, Google's vice president for public policy in the Americas admitted that it lets app developers access the inboxes of millions of users - even though Google itself stopped looking in 2017.

Big quote: "In some cases, employees at these app companies have read people's actual emails in order to improve their software algorithms". Pretending that it is, though, is more like following someone else's prompt than genuinely responding to what The Wall Street Journal read in a letter Google sent to senators questioning the privacy protections afforded to Gmail users.

Later, Google said in a blog post that the company is continuously vetting developers and their apps that integrate with Gmail before it opens them for general access.

Google itself has mined users' emails since Gmail was launched in 2004, but announced previous year that it would stop the practice, amid privacy concerns and a federal wiretapping lawsuit.

Google may face more heat from Washington lawmakers about how it safeguards customer data.

Google defends its data collection position and policies claiming that it continually and thoroughly vets app developers who are granted such unrestricted access.

And what's interesting is that Google admitted not only giving third-party developers access to Gmail accounts, but also allowing them to share what they find with other third parties.

Google told senators it has suspended apps due to "a lack of transparency to users", without identifying violators or when enforcement actions took place.

"If we detect significant changes in the behavior of the app after it has been approved, we will once again manually review the app", she wrote. "No humans at Google read users' Gmail, except in very specific cases where they ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse", the company said.

That includes both an automated and manual review of the developer of the software, along with scrutinizing the privacy policy relating to the app (and undertaking an assessment of the app's legitimacy). The whole issue is a reminder to be careful of what add-ons you install.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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