Google Confirmed That Gmail Emails Could Sometimes Be Read By Outsiders Via Apps

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Better start deleting all those salacious emails and secret correspondences.

Coz Google has just confirmed that third-party app developers have been reading the emails of millions of Gmail users.

If you’ve ever seen a request like this:

Image: Stack overflow

You could be one of the unknowing victims.

Starts scrambling to delete history and clear messages/subscriptions. 

We’ve barely just recovered from the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal, and now our trust is breached again.

It feels particularly frightening, coz we know that Gmail is the world’s most popular email service, with as many as 1.4 billion users as of 2018.

What it takes for the developers to start reading your email messages

As reported by The Wall Street Journal, it’s alarming that all it takes is a login to our Gmail account when signing up to a new app, for third-party app developers to gain access to our private messages.

Image: Know your meme

Granted, users give consent for their data to be seen when they sign up for a new app, but you’d have expected computers to be reading your personal data, and not humans.

You can’t help but cringe and feel more embarrassed when you imagine a stranger reading your “my dearly beloved” letters to your S/O as compared to an emotionless robot.

Image: Meme center

Google has since defended the controversy, stating that strict, multi-step review measures are taken before external apps can gain access to Gmail messages. And that, app developers are denied permission should they engage in misrepresentation.

It’s actually been happening for years

However, app developers also claim that this is common practice that has been happening discreetly for years.

Return Path and Edison Software are 2 such companies revealed in the Wall Street Journal expose.

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In a media statement to The Verge post-controversy, Edison Software insisted they’d since stopped the practice and deleted all data to continue ensuring data privacy. Return Path remains silent on the issue.

Meanwhile, I’m here like, quirks eyebrow and gives pointed look.

Image: me.me

To be fair, there’s currently no evidence of data misuse by third party app developers (unlike the Cambridge Analytica scandal), but it still feels like an unspoken boundary’s been crossed, our secrets exposed.

The point is, the situation could easily escalate to data abuse at any point of time if left unchecked.

All things considered, Google has recently made another media statement reiterating that employees never, ever, ever read users’ emails, except when explicitly permitted to or for security purposes.

I mean, rightly so lah, Google does not want to end up like Cambridge Analytica.

Methinks directly addressing the issue is commendable, but this time, users might have had enough with the barrage of data privacy scandals.

I know I am. To preserve its status as data custodian, Google must work a lot harder to preserve its data integrity and enforce stricter policies on data management in the face of rapidly eroding levels of trust.

Action > Talk.

Meanwhile, here’s what you can do:

So, what can you do while this gets sorted out?

One, you can ignore it and move on. After all, it’s been happening for years, so why the hell not?

Or two, you can go to your Google account, look at app permissions and start unchecking permissions. Of course, this sometimes means that you can’t use the app anymore.

There’s no free lunch in the world, yeah? Today, the currency is no longer in dollars and sense, but your data.

And with that wise tidbit of advice, I’ll leave you to agonise over your apps.

Now you know what Singaporeans are talking about today; do check back tomorrow for another piece of news of the day!