Gmail confirms third party apps can read users’ private emails

4 July 2018

Gmail confirms third party apps can read users’ private emails

Gmail has confirmed that third-party app developers can read users’ private emails, both sent and received.

According to the Wall Street Journal, users who have connected to third-party apps may have unknowingly allowed not just machines, but human staff to read their messages.

Gmail, owned by Google, is the world’s most popular emailing service, with 1.4 billion users connected to the platform.

Google lets people connect to third-party email management tools to their accounts or services such as travel planning and price comparisons.

By connecting their account to these tools, users are asked to grant certain permissions to the third-party applications, which include giving them the ability to “read, send, delete and manage your email.”

This permission sometimes allows employees of the applications to read users emails.

A year ago, Google promised that it would stop computers from scanning the inbox of Gmail users, yet the internet giant continues to allow third-party applications access.

Furthermore, according to sources, Google does little to prevent developers from training computers, and in some cases employees, to read their users’ emails.

One case included Edison Software, a Gmail developer that makes a mobile application for reading and organising email. Employees of the company personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of users in order to build a new feature, says Mikael Berner, the company’s CEO.

Former chief technology officer at eDataSource Thede Loder said that letting employees read private and personal emails has become a “common practice” for companies that need to collect data to enhance their product.

“Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret,” says Mr. Loder. “It’s kind of reality.”

He revealed that his own company that he worked for had engaged in similar practices such as reviewing emails to build and improve software algorithms.

The concern of privacy breaches by online social and messaging platforms has become increasingly scrutinised after Facebook let third-party developers gain access to nearly 90 million users’ private information, a scandal which saw Facebook face legal inquiries.