Google's Gmail, other services let third parties read user emails, report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2018
Just over a year after promising to no longer scan user emails in Gmail for personalized ads, Google is allowing outside developers to do just that, a new report says.

Google's Gmail


According to a Wall Street Journal report published Monday, Google continues to allow outside software developers to "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."

Vetted app developers that are part of Google's Gmail program are allowed to read these emails to create new services or app features. Normally, the bulk of emails are scanned electronically by computer software, but in some cases human employees are doing the reading.

For example, Return Path, a firm that skims emails for data of interest to marketers, scanned the inboxes of over 2 million people, leaving 8,000 unredacted emails to be read by its employees. Other marketing companies, as well as app makers, also gained access to Gmail emails.

Google is not alone in its practices, as Microsoft and Verizon's Oath Communications also let partners skim user emails. Oath, which formed out of Verizon's acquisition of Yahoo, says access is considered "on a case-by-case basis" and requires explicit consent from users, policies similar to those employed by Microsoft.

The report, based on interviews with more than 25 current and former employees of app developers and data companies, finds that the practice of reviewing email data has become common in the industry.

Google told the Journal that its own employees only read user emails "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," while Google "lets any user revoke access to apps at any point."

In June of 2017, Google announced that later in that year, the company would begin serving ads based on a user's setting, meaning that consumer Gmail accounts would not be used or scanned for any ads personalization.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 82
    stukestuke Posts: 82member
    For the last time...they have to make money somehow and selling your data is (will always be) the method, no matter what clothing it is shrouded in.  Now, want to again criticize Apple’s tight control over your privacy in its eco-system?
    williamlondonbaconstangbackstabolsrob53cornchipracerhomie3mac_dogSwampwulflostkiwi
  • Reply 2 of 82
    And people keep harping on about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, always giving Google a great big pass. Google has been at it longer, has wider reach, is much better at it, and has far more customers than Facebook.
    baconstangolscornchipracerhomie3chasmjbdragonlamboaudi4lostkiwi[Deleted User]Notsofast
  • Reply 3 of 82
    kkqd1337kkqd1337 Posts: 187member
    I pay for my email on a Microsoft Business Office 365 Exchange account to prevent this.

    its like $20-30 a year. I mean surely we value our privacy that much don’t we? For email which we now use for literally everything.

    But I guess if you want free you have to make compromises.
    edited July 2018 cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 82
    kkqd1337 said:
    I pay for my email on a Microsoft Business Office 365 Exchange account to prevent this.

    its like $20-30 a year. I mean surely we value our privacy that much don’t we? For email which we now use for literally everything.

    But I guess if you want free you have to make compromises.
    Free and (very) private: protonmail, tutanota (both offer paid upgrades offering more features in their accounts, but they're not expensive). You don't have to sell yourself (literally) to these evil fuckwits if you value your privacy (sadly it seems a dying personal value).
    olsJaiOh81cornchipbaconstangStrangeDaysjbdragonviclauyycwatto_cobracgWerksjony0
  • Reply 5 of 82
    silvergold84silvergold84 Posts: 62unconfirmed, member
    Fake privacy safety , fake notch .. same google android 
    JaiOh81cornchipbaconstangStrangeDaysracerhomie3chasmlostkiwijbdragonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 82
    gbdocgbdoc Posts: 59member
    Google's probably going to run into trouble with Europe's GDPR rules, some form of which will be adopted in the U.S. sooner or later. That's going to be good for all of us.
    williamlondonolsJaiOh81cornchipbaconstangchasmlostkiwidysamoria[Deleted User]raulcristian
  • Reply 7 of 82
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,302member
    Oh geez...
    Why would anyone give a 3rd-party app express permission to look at their email? Apparently it's becoming an acceptable "thing"? Really?

    From the source article:
    "The total number of email apps in the top two mobile app stores, for Apple’s iOS and Android, jumped to 379 last year, from 142 five years earlier, according to researcher App Annie. Most can link to Gmail and other major providers."


    GeorgeBMacjony0
  • Reply 8 of 82
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?

    Some recent content creation for consideration: https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/80195964

    edited July 2018
  • Reply 9 of 82
    Google is evil! If we didn’t have a bought and paid for Congress, the Google and Facebook ilk would have to pay for customer’s data! What a con job

    best
    williamlondontallest skilJaiOh81baconstangMacProlostkiwidysamoriaNotsofastwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 82
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,698member
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?
    if you mean location tagging, it would be:

    settings->privacy->location services->photos->never

    You're welcome.
    JaiOh81mwhitecornchipaaronsullivanMacProlostkiwidysamoriaNotsofastmelodyof1974macxpress
  • Reply 11 of 82
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    kkqd1337 said:
    I pay for my email on a Microsoft Business Office 365 Exchange account to prevent this.
    Who tricked you into thinking this would actually prevent that?
    bobolicious said:
    Some recent content creation for consideration: https://www.netflix.com/ca/title/80195964
    Oh, I thought that was going to be the child porn film for which Netflix is being investigated.

    edited July 2018 watto_cobracgWerks
  • Reply 12 of 82
    ttollertonttollerton Posts: 178member
    “Do no evil.”

    Give me a break.
    edited July 2018 baconstanglamboaudi4watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 82
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    “Do no evil.”
    They dropped that facade in 2015.
    watto_cobracgWerks
  • Reply 14 of 82
    mr. h said:
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?
    if you mean location tagging, it would be:

    settings->privacy->location services->photos->never

    You're welcome.
    No - "You can search for other items such as mountains, dogs, cats, beach, theme park. Photos indexes thousands of different times. Try it after you install iOS 10, it's fun to test just what Photos can find in your library." https://www.cnet.com/how-to/whats-new-with-photos-on-ios-10/ and https://www.macrumors.com/2018/06/04/apple-new-photos-app-for-you-tab-ios-12/

    I suspect Orwell would be impressed at how this has been marketed and acquiesced...

    Yet it is 'fun'... (of course!)

    And all the contacts that others we may barely know have added our personal facial photo in to the Contacts database and then synced with iCloud - can that ever be even known or redacted? Apple to me is the ultimate Trojan Horse company, and if they ever flip the switch, well I guess that bridge will need crossing when the time comes...

    Where does subterfuge lie in the gamut of 'evil'...?

    edited July 2018 airnerd
  • Reply 15 of 82
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    When those Google people chant "do no evil" over and over like a mantra, it has an effect. It plants it in them that they really should be doing evil.

    Google tried to kill iPhone.  Does it get more evil than that?
    edited July 2018 tallest skil
  • Reply 16 of 82
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,698member
    mr. h said:
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?
    if you mean location tagging, it would be:

    settings->privacy->location services->photos->never

    You're welcome.
    No - "You can search for other items such as mountains, dogs, cats, beach, theme park. Photos indexes thousands of different times. Try it after you install iOS 10, it's fun to test just what Photos can find in your library." https://www.cnet.com/how-to/whats-new-with-photos-on-ios-10/ and https://www.macrumors.com/2018/06/04/apple-new-photos-app-for-you-tab-ios-12/

    I suspect Orwell would be impressed at how this has been smoothed over and just accepted... Yet it is 'fun'...

    Er... and you're worried about this why?
    fastasleepStrangeDaysdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 82
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,302member
    Google is evil! If we didn’t have a bought and paid for Congress, the Google and Facebook ilk would have to pay for customer’s data! What a con job

    best
    It's not Google "reading the mail" or allowing apps and developers to that you didn't explicitly request. Read your EULA's. Folks are opting for assistant and organization apps such as Edison or EasilyDo or 24Me or hundreds of other apps that offer to keep track of your appointments/travel/communications/calendar if you allow them access to those iOS/Android services like Calendar and Mail and such. Relying on third party apps such as these to maintain your privacy on top of the first party service is simply asking for trouble IMHO. 
    edited July 2018 rob53cornchipbaconstangGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 18 of 82
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,572member
    mr. h said:
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?
    if you mean location tagging, it would be:

    settings->privacy->location services->photos->never

    You're welcome.
    No - "You can search for other items such as mountains, dogs, cats, beach, theme park. Photos indexes thousands of different times. Try it after you install iOS 10, it's fun to test just what Photos can find in your library." https://www.cnet.com/how-to/whats-new-with-photos-on-ios-10/ and https://www.macrumors.com/2018/06/04/apple-new-photos-app-for-you-tab-ios-12/

    I suspect Orwell would be impressed at how this has been marketed and acquiesced...

    Yet it is 'fun'... (of course!)

    And all the contacts that others we may barely know have added our personal facial photo in to the Contacts database and then synced with iCloud - can that ever be even known or redacted? Apple to me is the ultimate Trojan Horse company, and if they ever flip the switch, well I guess that bridge will need crossing when the time comes...

    Where does subterfuge lie in the gamut of 'evil'...?

    On-device machine learning is what finds objects and things in your photos, and all of that data is shared among your devices if you have iCloud Photo Library turned on. If you are using that, then not sure why you'd be concerned that there's data saying there's a mountain or a cat in your photo when you're storing the actual photo in iCloud. If you're not doing that, then it doesn't matter as it's stored encrypted on your device.

    Your second example is baffling. What if some other user attaches a photo of you to their contacts entry for you? How does that have anything to do with Apple, other than they store Contacts fully encrypted in iCloud? You really expect them enable you to find out about something in someone else's data and edit it? For fuck's sake, that's some backasswards logic right there.


    baconstangStrangeDays[Deleted User]dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 82
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,572member

    “Do no evil.”
    They dropped that facade in 2015.
    No, they didn't.

    First off, it was always "Don't be evil" and in April 2018, it was removed from the preface in Google's Code of Conduct, but remains at the end:

    “And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right – speak up!”

    https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-dont-be-evil/254019/

    cornchipStrangeDaysdysamoria
  • Reply 20 of 82
    mr. h said:
    ...and so 'we' agree to our favourite fruit company XX.X release EULA, in context of the represented current business model and in light of the Patriot Act...? I'll ask again where is the off switch for Photos image tagging ?
    if you mean location tagging, it would be:

    settings->privacy->location services->photos->never

    You're welcome.
    No - "You can search for other items such as mountains, dogs, cats, beach, theme park. Photos indexes thousands of different times. Try it after you install iOS 10, it's fun to test just what Photos can find in your library." https://www.cnet.com/how-to/whats-new-with-photos-on-ios-10/ and https://www.macrumors.com/2018/06/04/apple-new-photos-app-for-you-tab-ios-12/

    I suspect Orwell would be impressed at how this has been marketed and acquiesced...

    Yet it is 'fun'... (of course!)

    And all the contacts that others we may barely know have added our personal facial photo in to the Contacts database and then synced with iCloud - can that ever be even known or redacted? Apple to me is the ultimate Trojan Horse company, and if they ever flip the switch, well I guess that bridge will need crossing when the time comes...

    Where does subterfuge lie in the gamut of 'evil'...?

    On-device machine learning is what finds objects and things in your photos, and all of that data is shared among your devices if you have iCloud Photo Library turned on. If you are using that, then not sure why you'd be concerned that there's data saying there's a mountain or a cat in your photo when you're storing the actual photo in iCloud. If you're not doing that, then it doesn't matter as it's stored encrypted on your device.

    Your second example is baffling. What if some other user attaches a photo of you to their contacts entry for you? How does that have anything to do with Apple, other than they store Contacts fully encrypted in iCloud? You really expect them enable you to find out about something in someone else's data and edit it? For fuck's sake, that's some backasswards logic right there.
    Ahhh well I don't expect many to extrapolate to potential design scenarios... It's not about us finding out about us, backasswards or otherwise... Flip the switch and what happens next ? Can what we know today as 'civil society' change rapidly...? The Kremlin apparently switched to typewriters...
    edited July 2018
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