Google allows numerous third-party app developers to read some people's Gmail inboxes, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing interviews with over two dozen current and former professionals from the marketing and data analytics industries. Those most at risk of such potential privacy violations are individuals who sign up for email-based services such as online planners, discount alert systems, and price comparison solutions. Return Path, Edison Software, and eDataSource have been named as some among "hundreds" of developers who have access to millions of Gmail messages. Former eDataSource CTO Thede Loder acknowledged some may consider that state of affairs to be the industry's "dirty secret" but is "kind of reality [sic]" nonetheless.
All firms that utilize such practices say they have them covered by their user agreements and note that human reviewers only handle a small portion of emails, usually to verify whether their content-scanning algorithms are working in an optimal manner. eDataSource recently completely stopped letting human reviewers access anyone's Gmail contents for privacy reasons, the company said. Last year, Google promised to end its practice of scanning people's emails for the purposes of delivering targeted advertising for security and privacy purposes but seemingly has no intentions to stop letting third parties do so.
There's no evidence to suggest any company that previously had access to millions of Gmail messages or still does ever misused such sensitive data or had it leaked but the sole practice raises the possibility of that scenario becoming a reality, privacy advocates claim. Users who grant access to their inboxes as part of prolonged service agreements few even try reading are exposing the entirety of their inboxes to such firms. The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation is meant to put an end to those practices and require companies to transparently ask for access to people's Gmail inboxes if that's what they're seeking. With 1.4 billion users worldwide, Gmail is by far the most popular such service on the planet and hence the number one target for marketers and data companies looking to leverage the contents of people's emails for advertising purposes and other profit-focused endeavors. A Google official told TWSJ that users are always able to revoke any developer's access to their data, adding that the tech giant reviews every individual company with access to sensitive information on a regular basis.