Google responds to lawmaker concerns over Gmail scanning

Gmail Webpage. The Google based mail website seen in a Firefox web browser

Google says app developers can still scan Gmail with opt-in

In practice, this means that any app that shares your private data with advertisers must disclose this fact in their privacy policy.

Google stopped scanning its Gmail for keywords past year - but still allows third-party developers to do so, according to a July letter from Susan Molinari, Google point person for governmental affairs.

Susan Molinari, vice president of Google's America public policy and government affairs, said the company's developer policies allow for this type of sharing. But the results still infringe on users' privacy.

The latest cue to act surprised: Google told US lawmakers that it lets third-party devs scan and share email via Gmail.

"Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data", Molinari wrote.

The senators wanted more answers about Google's claim that it reviews and enforces each app's compliance with its policies.

Google said in a letter to USA senators made public on Thursday that it relies on automated scans and reports from security researchers to monitor add-ons after launch, but did not respond to lawmakers' request to say how many have been caught violating the company's policies. If the company detects changes in the app's behavior, it will manually review that app and unverify it if it's determined to be in violation of Google's terms.

To educate users, Google will serve up warnings when a third-party app is installed that'll indicate what data it seeks to obtain from your Gmail inbox, and if the app has been verified. Some of the tools used by these developers are provided by Gmail, and some app developers have actually read the content of users' emails in order to fine tune their algorithms.

She also said Google restricts this type of access to a "very limited number of individuals", requires documentation of when access is granted, and routinely audits access.

Next week, the tech giants, including Google, Amazon, Apple and Twitter will be addressing the Senate over increased concerns over online privacy and to examine the safeguards in place to protect consumers.

Who's reading your Gmail?

Gmail's not entirely confidential "confidential mode" expiry-date email feature is now available on mobile apps.

If you'd rather not wait for Google to offer the option, Lifehacker's David Murphy points out that you can block the replies box using uBlock Origin.

Even though users can set an expiration date for emails, the EFF said that Google can still access the message data.

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