Google still allows various third-party app developers scan through Gmail messages of its users, the Wall Street Journal has claimed in a report.
In 2017, the search giant had said its computers would soon stop reading the Gmail messages of users to personalise their ads, and promised that it would “keep privacy and security paramount”, but it seems Google has not stopped partner organisations from reading its users’ emails.
Google “continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools,” says the WSJ report published late Monday.
It adds: “Google does little to police those developers, who train their computers—and, in some cases, employees—to read their users’ emails.”
Google was yet to comment on this till this report was being written.
Gmail has nearly 1.4 billion users globally — more users than the next 25 largest email providers combined.
Google says it provides data only to outside developers it has vetted and to whom users have explicitly granted permission to access email.
The WSJ report says Google’s own employees read emails only “in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse”.
“Email data collectors use software to scan millions of messages a day, looking for clues about consumers that they can sell to marketers, hedge funds and other businesses,” the report adds, saying data miners generally have access to other email services too besides Gmail.
The report mentions two specific apps — Return Path and Edison Software. Return Path collects data for marketers by analysing the emails from users’ inbox. The scanning is normally done by computers, analysing nearly 100 million emails a day. It apparently read over 8,000 emails to develop its software around two years ago.
On the other hand, Edison Software, which makes a mobile app that helps users manage their emails, has read thousands of emails to develop products.
The WSJ report says neither Return Path nor Edison asked users specifically whether they could read their emails, and that both companies claim the practice is covered by their user agreements.