The Wall Street Journal has published an article that accuses Google of allowing its app developers to go through user’s emails on its Gmail app. This is ironic, considering Google had promised to stop reading Gmail messages a year ago. Seems like the promise was limited to only them.
Better user experience vs privacy
Of course it always comes under the guise of “to offer consumers better services and products” with no care given to a user’s privacy. Many of the companies in question use machines to skim email messages for keywords and phrases you use. This helps them understand how you feel about a certain subject or their product/service. Based on what it learns, you’ll see ads. This is how, as soon as you type something out in a mail or even in chat these days, you’ll see a relevant ad in no time. Other companies are even using actual human employees to read through your messages. That’s ridiculously old-fashioned but potentially even more scary.
Who’s reading your mails?
Almost all major email providers allow developers to access inboxes of their users. You will always have an opt-in or opt-out choice, but rarely do users understand what “opting in” really entails. It is this very reason that has sparked the proliferation of fully encrypted email services that guarantee the highest level of privacy for your communication.
In the article, WSJ has various representatives from companies that work with Google and read Gmail messages going on the record. They admit that it is a “common practice” to snoop through email. However, the reps did acknowledge that there are strict rules put in place as specified by user agreements.
What’s most surprising is how Google very publicly announced it would stop going through its user’s emails but continues to allow third-party developers to do so, with no clarity on the oversight and policies it has in place for these developers. Google has declined to comment on the matter.