Published: Wed, July 04, 2018
Electronics | By Shannon Stone

Google: 'We' don't scan your email'

Google: 'We' don't scan your email'

Google allows employees at software companies to read millions of Gmail users' private messages, it has emerged. The search giant said a year ago it would stop scanning user emails for data that helps marketers target ads. Some allow people to write emails in special fonts, or to make it easier to find images to send to others, while others make it easier for people to organise their emails into folders.

"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 search giant also said it vets third-party apps to make sure they "only request relevant data" and "accurately represent themselves". Considering Gmail has 1.4 billion users, that is a vast pool of private data that is out for sale.

What isn't clear from The Journal's story is whether Google is doing anything differently than Microsoft or other rival email services.

Last year Google assured that it would stop scanning emails and ensure complete privacy of its users. The increased scrutiny follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the now defunct data firm accused of misusing the personal information of more than 80 million Facebook users in an attempt to sway elections.

Mikael Berner, the CEO of Edison Software, a Gmail developer that offers a mobile app for organising email, told The Journal that its employees had read emails from hundreds of Gmail users as part of an effort to build a new feature.

"Nevertheless, privacy advocates and many tech industry executives say opening access to email data risks similar leaks", the report said. At one point, the company's employees apparently used to read about 8,000 uncensored emails to help train the company's software. These apps only have basic profile information - like your name and email address - so that you don't have to sign up for yet another website account that you have keep track of. Google itself is very strict about giving employees access to emails and limits it to situations where a security issue or bug requires it, or when users give Google explicit permission to do so according to the Wall Street Journal.

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