According to a recent article by BBC News, Google have confirmed that private emails sent and received by Gmail users can occasionally by read by third-party app developers and not just machines.
As you’re probably aware, Google lets its users connect their accounts to third party apps, such as email management tools, price comparison apps and travel planning apps to make their lives easier. If you have ever linked your account to an external service, you may notice that you are asked to grant certain permissions, which in some cases include the capacity to ‘read, send, delete and manage your email’.
Access on a commercial scale
Edison Software have recently told the Wall Street Journal that they were able to access users’ emails on Gmail and had reviewed them to aid the development of a new software feature. eDataSource Inc also revealed to the newspaper that their engineers had accessed and reviewed emails from Google accounts to improve its algorithms.
Google have insisted that this kind of practice is not against its policies, although one company told the Wall Street Journal that the practice was ‘common’ and described it as a ‘dirty secret’.
Permissions not asked for
The companies that spoke to the Wall Street Journal stated that they had not asked Gmail users for specific permission to read their messages as this kind of practice was fully covered by their user agreements with Google.
Google have hit back by saying that if users had “explicitly granted permission to access email’, then it would only ever be by companies that have been vetted by Google themselves.
Even though this kind of activity may be covered in the terms and conditions of the service, Professor Alun Woodward from the University of Surrey said that “it’s not what you would think of as reasonable, for a human being in a third-party company to be able to read your emails.”
Google users should visit the Security Check-up page to review which apps had been linked to their account, giving them the opportunity to remove any that they don’t want to share data with.
Need some advice? Still using Gmail?
If you have any queries or concerns about your personal data and how it can be best protected online, contact SCS Technology Solutions on 0800 952 0652 today.