Sunday, 22 July, 2018

Gmail messages 'read by human third parties'

Software Developers are Scanning the Inboxes of Gmail Users App developers have been reading your Gmail, and it's alarmingly common
Pete Mitchell | 04 July, 2018, 00:51

Fresh reports have now emerged that claim Google allowed third-party app developers to read and browse through the emails of millions of Gmail users.

Apparently, users who signed up for email-based services, shopping price comparisons and automated travel-itinerary planners using their Gmail accounts, are at most risk of this privacy breach.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., says it provides data only to outside developers it has vetted and to whom users have explicitly granted permission to access email. Wired editor-in-chief and CBS News contributor Nicholas Thompson joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss whether this is similar to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and what Google needs to do to make privacy settings clearer. An executive at another company said employees' reading of emails had become "common practice".

It pointed the BBC to its developer policies, which state: "There should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed objective of your application may lead Google to suspend your ability to access Google API Services".

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People who have connected third-party apps to their accounts may have unwittingly given external developers permission to read their messages. The popular email service, which has more than one billion users around the world, gave developers outside the company access to inboxes. It's said to have let workers read "thousands" of emails to help train its app's "smart reply" feature.

Before you freak out, you should know that you've probably given your consent to those apps scanning your inbox, and, thus, having computers automatically go through your emails.

It's interesting to note that, judging from The Journal's story, very little indicates that Google is doing anything different from Microsoft or other top email providers.

Both Return Path and Edison Software said they've now stopped the practice. He says engineers at eDataSource occasionally reviewed emails when building and improving software algorithms. They defended this action by saying, "The practice is specified in their user agreements and they have implemented strict rules for employees regarding the handling of emails". But thinking developers weren't going through users' emails was simply naive.

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