Google has hit back at report from The Wall Street Journal that third-party developers as well as its employees have access to read users’ emails. Per Nine, Google defended the security processes of its Gmail service—claiming it conducts “automatic processing,” which is a computer controlled process. The process, according to the tech giant, is designed to prevent the proliferation of spam and phishing of users’ emails.
According to Suzanne Frey, director of security at Google Cloud, automatic processing of emails was “standard practice” widely used in the industry. The user is handed control over what non-Google apps have access to their data.
The practice of automatic processing has caused some to speculate mistakenly that Google “reads” your emails,” said Frey per Nine.
To be absolutely clear: no one at Google reads your Gmail, except 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.”
“For example, you can share videos on YouTube publicly or you can decide to keep your videos private.
“Remember, when you share information publicly, your content may become accessible through search engines, including Google Search.”
According to WSJ, email access is made possible by settings that allows data companies and app developers view and see private details that include time stamps, addresses of recipient, and entire messages.
However, Google told The Verge that it only “gives data to vetted third-party developers” and not without the explicit consent of the user. That said, the company added that not all third-party developers get access to Gmail, even though the exact number of rejected applications were not given.
Google, however, did not deny that its employees sometimes read users’ emails, but only under special circumstances. In a statement made available to WSJ, Google said employees may also read emails mostly in situations where users granted them permission to do so. Other cases would be when a security situation arises such as when Google is investigating an abuse or a bug.
Google said it accesses your Gmail 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,”
So far there has not been any evidence of abuse of data in Gmail, and one would only hope things do not get to the point where these third-party developers would abuse the privilege that they have.
Still, the fact that persons other than the original owners of the accounts can read private emails could upset users around the world. Perhaps, the way forward would be for Google to review its account permission process since it is almost impossible not to use your Gmail without granting access to some of these third-party apps.