Google Apps can scan and share all your Gmail data, with permission

Portland, Oregon – March 29, 2011: The Gmail Web Page. The Google-based e-mail website seen in a Firefox web browser (iStock)


Don’t expect Google completely cut off from the marketing of companies from your Gmail inbox.

The company has told me that a group of U.S. senators that Gmail add-ons that the scan of your inbox can choose to have your data to someone else, but only if they are upfront about.

“Developers can share data with third parties, as long as they are transparent with users about how they are using the data,” Google VP Susan Molinari in a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee in July a letter.

A year ago, Google ended the controversial e-mail scanning in the practice, which was used to targeted ads. However, The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that hundreds of outside software developers can still search through your inbox via Gmail add-ons and mobile apps if you have agreed to install them.

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These apps can help organize your inbox, offer shopping comparisons, and other email-related tools. But, according to the Magazine, the apps also have their developers the ability to look through unredacted personal e-mails, which can be used for marketing or product refinement purposes. In one instance, there are 8,000 e-mails were read by analysts at a supplier of an app to help the company’s software.

The news prompted the Senate Commerce Committee on the question of Google about the e-mail privacy policy and any user data at risk of exposure. “The reported lack of oversight of Google to ensure that Gmail data can be guaranteed is reason for concern,” the commission said in the time.

However, Google has told lawmakers that the company has secured to prevent abuse. “We are continually working to vet developers and their apps that integrate with Gmail before we allow them the ability to request access to the personal data of the user,” Molinari wrote in her letter, which was first reported on Thursday.

Her letter will refrain from answering specific information about how the app-developers can share the Gmail-user data to third parties. But apps that need to access Gmail data must undergo a manual review from Google you involve in the investigation of the app’s privacy policy and the data privileges tries to ask, ” she said.

“As soon as they have been given access to, we use machine learning (AI-powered software algorithms) to check those apps,” Molinari added. “If we detect significant changes in the behavior of the app after it is approved, we will manually review your app.”

To inform users, Google will serve up warnings when a third party app installed that will indicate what data it seeks to obtain from your Gmail inbox, and if the app is verified. In the past, the company has suspended the apps for it are not transparent for the users, violating the rules about spam and data permissions that are not relevant for the app.

Molinari also raised the question of whether Google employees ever look in your inbox. “No humans at Google read the Gmail users, except in very special cases, when they ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as to investigate a bug or abuse,” the company said.

Nevertheless, Google’s defense assumes that people actually read all the details in an app’s privacy policy, when many of them can be long and difficult to read. The whole issue is a reminder to be careful of what add-ons to install.

Google and other tech companies are set to face the Senate next week, a hearing on the privacy of data.

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