Google would like you to know that no one is reading your emails on Gmail without your permission. While that may be true, things aren’t that simple.  

After a Wall Street Journal report (published Monday) described how third-party developers might be reading your emails on Gmail, Google on Tuesday responded with a blog post, describing the measures the company takes to ensure your security and privacy within the service. 

The post, signed by Suzanne Frey, Director of Security, Trust and Privacy at Google Cloud, admits that Google allows third party developers to access your Gmail messages, but only if you’ve granted them permission, and only after they pass a strict review process. 

“Before a published, non-Google app can access your Gmail messages, it goes through a multi-step review process that includes automated and manual reviews 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,” Frey says. 

In contrast, the WSJ’s report claims that Google “does little to police these developers,” which in some cases actually have their employees read users’ emails. According to the report, employees of a company called Return Path read about 8,000 user emails two years ago in order to help train its software. 



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The practice of sharing user data with third-party firms became common knowledge after it was revealed that Facebook let numerous third-party apps harvest massive amounts of user data for their own purposes. 

Google has been a little more careful than Facebook when it comes to protecting your privacy. For example, the company stopped using contents of user emails on Gmail to personalize its ads back in 2017. 

But if you’re not careful about granting permissions in Gmail to third-party apps, your emails could still theoretically fall into the wrong hands. To check which third-party apps you’ve allowed to access your Gmail, go to myaccount.google.com and click on “Apps with account access.”

In the post, Frey also points out that “no one at Google reads your Gmail.” There are exceptions to that rule, though. According to the company, these include “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.”

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