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Update: Google confirms third-parties can read your Gmail

Google confirms that third-parties can read your Gmail, and if you don't like it, then don't let them.

Published onJuly 3, 2018

Update 07/03/2018 at 1:45 P.M. EST: Google has confirmed, via The BBC, that private emails sent and received by Gmail users can sometimes be read by third-party app developers, not just machines. According to Google, since users agree to install third-party Gmail tools that authorize reading emails, it is at the users’ discretion whether or not this practice continues.

In brief, Google says that if you don’t want your email to be read by a third-party, then do not use third-party tools that read your email.

Google also suggested that people make use of the Security Check-Up tool it offers to see if you might have an app that is dangerous or invasive of your privacy.

Original Article (07/02/18): Today, The Wall Street Journal published an exposé about how Google reportedly allows partner companies to read your Gmail messages in order to offer you better products and services.

While many of the companies in question use machines to skim email messages for keywords and phrases, some companies allow human employees to read through your messages the old-fashioned way.

People who subscribe to email-based services are most susceptible to message skimming. These services are things like product price comparisons and automated travel planning.

A year ago, Google promised to stop reading email messages of its users; but according to this WSJ article, it has done little to prevent other organizations from doing so.

‘Father of the Web’ working on privacy-focused project called Solid
An image of Tim Berners-Lee giving a TED Talk.

Google declined to comment on the matter.

Pretty much every major email provider allows developers to access inboxes of their users and people are almost always given a chance to opt-in or opt-out of the practice. With that in mind, the allegations against Google in this matter are not revelatory for the act of email-skimming, but rather for the idea that Google itself is curbing the method while still allowing others access.

It is also not clear what measures Google takes to vet and police third-party companies with access to Gmail messages.

Various representatives from companies that work with Google and read Gmail messages went on the record with The WSJ admitting that it is a “common practice” to snoop through email. However, the reps did acknowledge that there are strict rules put in place as specified by user agreements.

With 1.4 billion users, Gmail is far and away the world’s most popular email service. Gmail is so huge that if you combined all the users of the next 25 largest email providers, it would still be a smaller base than Gmail.

NEXT: Google will chat this week with other tech companies about privacy issues

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