Gmail Allows Emails to be Read by Third Party Employees

By M. Russo — Published July 04, 2018

Gmail Allows Emails to be Read by Third Party Employees

In June 2017, Google promised that it would do more to protect users' privacy by no longer scanning personal emails in order to better target ads. Earlier this week, however, it's come to light that the company has been allowing third party software developers to read users' emails.

While having artificial intelligence scan emails is not unusual, allowing human employees to do so is another matter. Not only do they have access to full emails from private users, but developers also have access to other information such as the addresses of email recipients and time stamps. One company, Return Path Inc., has employed people to read an estimated 8,000 unredacted emails each day. Another company, Edison Software, had employees read emails of hundreds of Gmail users each day. Neither of these development companies specifically asked users if they could read their emails.

source: gettyimages

Development companies report that they are reading personal Gmail emails in order to improve their own services, including new features and algorithms. Apps are given access to inboxes of Gmail users who sign up for email-based plugins such as for price comparison. While user permission is required, it doesn't specifically state that humans will be reading Gmail users' personal emails as part of the agreement.

Gmail, which has 1.4 billion users, is the world's most popular email service. Google's response to the scandal is that only companies that have been vetted can get access to users' private emails. Don't think you're safe just because you don't have a Gmail account: Microsoft and Yahoo also have allowed third party app developers access to user emails. Last week, California passed the nation's strongest data privacy law at this time, which will require companies like Google to disclose what data they collect from users and with whom they share that information.

Related Articles