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Google admits giving hundreds of firms access to your Gmail inbox

Third party developers can scan data and even share it with other third parties

Anthony Cuthbertson
Wednesday 26 September 2018 10:53 BST
Google stores location data 'even when users have told it not to'

Hundreds of apps are able to scan and share data from the email inboxes of Gmail accounts, Google has revealed.

In a letter to US lawmakers, which was made public on Thursday, Google explained that third-party developers are able to both access and share data from Gmail accounts – though the company said it thoroughly vets any third parties that are granted access, and permission must be given by the user.

The inbox scanning takes place despite Google ending its own controversial email-scanning practice a year ago.

"Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data," Susan Molinari, Google's head of US public policy, wrote in the letter, which was first seen by the Wall Street Journal.

Google's director of security, trust and privacy Suzanne Frey explained in a blog post in July that Google grants certain permissions to third party apps and services in order to improve the experience for Gmail users.

"We make it possible for applications from other developers to integrate with Gmail – like email clients, trip planners and customer relationship management (CRM) systems – so that you have options around how you access and use your email." Ms Frey wrote.

Ms Frey said that before any non-Google app can access a person's Gmail messages, it goes through a "multi-step review process" that includes assessing the app's privacy policy to ensure that it's a legitimate app.

"Before a non-Google app is able to access your data, we show a permissions screen that clearly shows the types of data the app can access and how it can use that data," Ms Frey said.

"We strongly encourage you to review the permissions screen before granting access to any non-Google application."

The July blog post did not mention that third party developers were able to share Gmail users' data with other third parties.

Google is yet to respond to a request for comment.

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