Google allows third-party developers to read users’ private messages

Even though Google has assured its users that “Google will keep privacy and security paramount”,  the search giant allows various third-party app developers to read your  private Gmail accounts in the name of better products and services, the Wall Street Journal has claimed

The company “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,” the Journal said.

The Journal has specifically mentioned two apps in their report, Return Path and Edison Software. Return Path is an app that collects data for different marketers by analyzing users’ emails. The reports claimed that in two years employees of  Return Path read around  8,000 user emails to help develop the company’s software.

While Edison Software helps users in managing their emails. In order to develop a ‘Smart Reply’ feature, they have read thousands of emails.

“Email data collectors use software to scan millions of messages a day, looking for clues about consumers that they can sell to marketers, hedge funds, and other businesses,” the report added,

Both the companies said that they have got legal consent from the users and it is mentioned in their agreements with the Google.

“Google does little to police those developers, who train their computers– and, in some cases, employees — to read their users’ emails,” the report further stated.

Meanwhile, the companies defended their policy of letting their employees scan through your personal emails and messages.

“As anyone who knows anything about software knows, humans program software – artificial intelligence comes directly from human intelligence,” Return Path said in a blog post. “Any time our engineers or data scientists personally review emails in our panel (which again, is completely consistent with our policies), we take great care to limit who has access to the data, supervise all access to the data.”

Edison also defended its actions, however, they insisted that now the company has stopped the practice.

“Our email app was mentioned in the context of our engineers having in the past the ability to read a small random sample of de-identified messages for R&D purposes. This method was used to guide us in developing our Smart Reply functionality which was developed some time ago,” CEO Mikael Berner said in a statement. “We have since stopped this practice and expunged all such data in order to stay consistent with our company’s commitment to achieving the highest standards possible for ensuring privacy.”

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