Those of you particularly concerned about the privacy cost of using what is arguably the most popular email provider in the world may check all the third-party applications that have access to your Gmail account right here. Although most of the work is still done by computers, in one case, a company called "Return Path" allowed some 8,000 emails to be read, unaltered, by its employees.
Normally, computers scan and analyse over 100 million emails per day, but Google allows third-party software to electronically scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users.
Only companies checked by Google would be able to access messages and users would have had to grant permission when they agreed to the terms and conditions of third-party tools. The Internet giant recently rolled out new features for Android users to make it easier for them to navigate their Gmail accounts and review security and privacy options. In 2017, Google said its computers will soon stop reading the emails of its Gmail users to personalise their ads. While the WSJ found no evidence that these companies misused the data they collected, it's still a blow to user confidence, especially as companies like Google and Facebook keep saying that they're protecting your data. Something else that's unclear is whether Gmail users are fully aware that individual employees may be reading their emails, as opposed to an automated system.
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But you should make sure you trust the apps and developers that have such access to your accounts and that you are only giving them as much access as they need.
One security expert said it was "surprising" that Google allowed it.
Companies that spoke to The Journal confirmed that the practice was specified in their user agreements and said they had implemented strict rules for employees regarding the handling of email. You did that so that you could take advantage of a particular type of app built around email, like a service that tells you when prices for specific products goes down.