Who’s reading your email?
[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 does little to police those developers, who train their computers—and, in some cases, employees—to read their users’ emails.
Scary stuff, right? Right. Although if you only got as far as what’s visible without going past the paywall, you might think some terrible wrongdoing had been uncovered.
As it is, the Wall Street Journal found a couple of cases where developers at Return Path and Edison Software used a selection of users’ emails to help train the A.I. that powers their services. In one example, this was to fix a bug, and in the other, it was in a redacted form that meant the humans involved couldn’t see who the emails were from and to. The email data was deleted after the work was completed.
This is in no way encouraging. These companies should have asked for specific permission from specific users before doing work like this. Even if they believed they were covered by their existing privacy policies, it’s just bad form to read emails without permission.
These cases are bad, but nowhere near as bad as they could be if the people behind such companies had genuinely dark intent.
It’s easy to forget that once you let a third-party company access your Gmail account, they almost certainly need to keep copies of your emails on their servers to work whatever magic it is they’re doing for you.
Be careful who you trust, and regularly check your Google account
’s ‘apps with account access’ section to make sure you know exactly who can see your stuff.