But the internet giant 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. The report further states that not only can the companies developing products and services read users private emails, it also includes all their employees too.
Although Google stopped mining Gmail accounts for data useful to advertisers past year, it left an API open allowing others to do just that, the Wall Street Journal reports. Its employees examined hundreds of user emails in order to build a new feature for the app.
To find out and edit which third-party apps have access to your Gmail account, head to the My Account page and login. Google declined to comment.
The companies that had spokespeople quoted in the article claim that all their employees must adhere to strict guidelines when checking user data, and while there are no signs of misuse amongst other developers, the potential is certainly there.
The revelation comes at a bad time for Google and Gmail, the world's largest email service with 1.4 billion users.
Gmail's opt-in alert spells out generally what a user is agreeing to.
Third-party developers may access emails on Gmail if users give them access to the data, that's the main takeaway from a new Wall Street Journal story (which I don't link to because paywall).
In Google's case, outside developers must pass a vetting process, and as part of that, Google ensures they have an acceptable privacy agreement, The Journal reported, citing a Google representative.
Google's system allows or disallows access to the email data only; the company makes no distinction between algorithms that read emails, for instance to provide functionality, and humans who read it.
As per the report, Return Path Inc.is one of the said companies which Google allowed.
The companies said they didn't ask users about reading their emails because such language is "covered" by their user agreements.
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.