“Companies behind Gmail add-ons let employees read e-mail”

Jul

3

2018

According to research from The Wall Street Journal, Google allows hundreds of software developers to scan the content of emails from Gmail users. This concerns users who have registered for certain e-mail services.

According to the WSJ , Google does little to keep an eye on these external app developers in their activities, including training their systems and computers to read users’ emails. In some cases there would also be employees from these companies who have read emails. The WSJ says it has spoken with more than 24 current employees and ex-employees of these companies, who create apps for e-mails.

For example, the companies Return Path and Edison Software. The former collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of the two million users who have subscribed via Gmail or a Yahoo email address for one of the company’s free apps. Normally computers take care of this scanning process, but two years ago employees would have read eight thousand unfiltered e-mails to improve the company’s software.

Edison Software, a Gmail developer who creates a mobile app for reading and organizing e-mails, has seen hundreds of user e-mails to build new functionality. The company’s ceo confirmed this. According to the WSJ, Return Path and Edison Software did not specifically ask users for permission to read the e-mails; According to the companies, this practice is permissible, in view of the user agreements. Both companies also say that there are strict protocols for which employees can access the e-mails.

Google itself says that it only reads e-mails in very specific cases and only when users have asked for it. The company says it manually checks every developer and every app that wants access to Gmail. However, a co-founder of Contactually reports that he has not seen any evidence of human verification by Google.

A year ago, Google announced that it would stop scanning Gmail messages for personalized ads. The search giant did this earlier to adjust ads to user profiles.

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