Google allowing third party app developers access to millions of gmail accounts

Angelica Greene
July 3, 2018

"In another case, employees of Edison Software, another Gmail developer that makes a mobile app for reading and organizing email, personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of users to build a new feature, says Mikael Berner, the company's CEO", the report said.

But the Journal found that Google "continues to let hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services offering shopping price comparisons, automated travel-itinerary planners or other tools".

Google allows users to connect third-party services to their accounts, and it's here the problems arise. Wired editor-in-chief and CBS News contributor Nicholas Thompson joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss whether this is similar to the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal and what Google needs to do to make privacy settings clearer. Companies may reveal additional details about how data is processed but most users don't read privacy policies, terms of service, and other legal documents prior to allowing access to their data or installing applications.

Google's developer agreement prohibits exposing a user's private data to anyone else "without explicit opt-in consent from that user".

While messages are typically processed by computer algorithms, the newspaper spoke to several companies where employees had read "thousands" of email messages.

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Google said a year ago it would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements, saying it wanted users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount".

It pointed the BBC to its developer policies, which state: "There should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed goal of your application may lead Google to suspend your ability to access Google API Services".

Google told The Verge, which reported on the story of the Wall Street Journal, that all companies are vetted before they are allowed to request user data. An executive at another company said that the reading of emails by employees has become "common practice".

Now You: Do you permit third-party apps access to important data?

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