Google has reportedly allowed third-party developers of Android apps to review millions of Gmail messages, which seems about right.
On Monday, a report by The Wall Street Journal drew attention to the fact that access settings for Gmail, Google’s popular email platform, allow data companies and app developers that work Google to view millions of users’ personal content and details.
According to the WSJ, third parties have gotten human and AI access to whole Gmail messages, time stamps, and recipients’ addresses, among other things. The report also suggested that Gmail’s associated consent form isn’t explicit enough about that fact that human eyes will be studying users’ content, not just AI.
The company also told the WSJ that sometimes its employees will read users’ emails, too, but only 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.”
Third-party apps may also request users’ personal information in pretty broad strokes (from message content and location to camera and mic access) through plugins to Gmail, or nearly any other email platform, for that matter.
As Shannon Liao reflected for The Verge, “The situation is reminiscent of the conditions that led to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data sharing fiasco: something that was common practice for years — letting third-party apps access Facebook data — was eventually abused and fell under government and public scrutiny once it became well known.”