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Are People At Google Reading Your Emails? Maybe Not, But They Can

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Google does allow third-party developers, as well as their own staff, to read your emails, but only if it's absolutely necessary.

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There was a scathing expose in the Wall Street Journal, which revealed that some companies actually use humans to read your emails.  They allege this is to improve the services and apps that they have.  Because of that, Google has come out with their own blog post, in order to reassure users that they aren’t reading your emails.  This is a good way to manage this because Google is in the same boat as Facebook when it comes to user data and privacy handling. You might remember that Google had its own series of privacy mishaps over the years, so it’s good to see that they’re getting out in front of this.   I mean, this is the exact opposite of what Facebook did in terms of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In my previous paragraph, I did say that humans aren’t reading your emails, but that’s not completely true.  In a blog post, Google insists that your security and privacy are safe, but they still allow other parties to access your data:

“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. We continuously work to vet developers and their apps that integrate with Gmail before we open them for general access, and we give both enterprise admins and individual consumers transparency and control over how their data is used.”

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But they’re vetting these Gmail developers thoroughly – using an automated process and manual review process.  But is that even enough?

“A vibrant ecosystem of non-Google apps gives you choice and helps you get the most out of your email. However, before a published, non-Google app can access your Gmail messages, it goes through a multi-step review process that includes automated and manual review of the developer, assessment of the app’s privacy policy and homepage to ensure it is a legitimate app, and in-app testing to ensure the app works as it says it does.”

That said, you kind of are in control of your data.  You can turn off the way that these apps work, so they’re not reading your email.  But who reads privacy policies anyway?  What might be worse is that very few people actually revoke access to the apps, once it’s given.  For many people, there’s actually no way of knowing if there is a human reading their emails – and if they’re even anonymous.  Google has indicated that they’re not going to commit to blocking any email app developers from reading your data, but it does say that Google themselves won’t read your emails – unless you give consent, or there’s a reasonable reason to do so.

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“The practice of automatic processing has caused some to speculate mistakenly that Google “reads” your emails. To be absolutely clear: no one at Google reads your Gmail, except in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse.”

All that said, there’s a good chance that your Gmails are safe – for now.

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