Google may not read your Gmail messages, but third-party apps do

The Google logo is shown reflected on an adjacent office building in Irvine California

The company detailed how app developers can read your emails letter to US senators Credit Mike Blake Reuters

Susan Molinari, Google's vice president for public policy and government affairs for the Americas said in the letter, "Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data".

Big quote: "In some cases, employees at these app companies have read people's actual emails in order to improve their software algorithms".

The news prompted the Senate Commerce Committee to question Google about its email privacy practices and if any user data was at risk of exposure.

"Using software tools provided by Gmail and other email services, outside app developers can access information about what products people buy, where they travel and which friends and colleagues they interact with the most", reports the Wall Street Journal.

Google stopped scanning its Gmail for keywords past year - but still allows third-party developers to do so, according to a July letter from Susan Molinari, Google point person for governmental affairs.

And what's interesting is that Google admitted not only giving third-party developers access to Gmail accounts, but also allowing them to share what they find with other third parties.

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To educate users, Google will serve up warnings when a third-party app is installed that'll indicate what data it seeks to obtain from your Gmail inbox, and if the app has been verified.

Google defends its data collection position and policies claiming that it continually and thoroughly vets app developers who are granted such unrestricted access.

According to Google, it gives both enterprise admins and individual consumers transparency and control over how their data is used.

The letter, which confirms a story released at the time, goes on to say that any company that is likely to scan your mail has to show its privacy policy clearly before the user grants access or even download the add-on in the first place. In the past, the company has suspended apps for failing to be transparent to users, violating its rules on spam, and requesting data permissions that were not relevant to the app.

Google made no comment to CNN but referred them to a blog post in which it explains the review process, automatic and manual safeguarding, app testing and assessment of policy.

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