News & Opinion | July 3, 2018 10:05 am

App Developers May be Looking Through Your Private Gmail

Report finds hundreds of software developers are allowed to scan users' emails for training.

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Google said a year ago that it would no longer scan the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements because they wanted consumers to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount,” reports the Wall Street Journal. However, Google still lets hundreds of outside software developers scan the inboxes of millions of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services. And there is very little policing of these developers, who train both their computers and employees while reading users’ emails, the Wall Street Journal has found.

Employees at Edison Software, a developer that makes a mobile app for reading and organizing email, personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of Gmail users to build a new feature, Mikael Berner, the company’s CEO, told WSJ. Return Path Inc., collects data for marketers by scanning the inboxes of more than two million people who have signed up for one of the free apps in Return Path’s partner network using an email address from Gmail, Microsoft, or Yahoo.

Thede Loder, the former chief technology officer at eDataSource Inc., a rival to Return Path, said that letting employees read user emails have become a “common practice” for developer companies like these.

“Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret,” said Mr. Loder to WSJ. “It’s kind of reality.”