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Third-Party Email Apps Scan Gmail User Emails for Personalized Ads

Third-Party Email Apps Scan Gmail User Emails for Personalized Ads

A Monday report from The Wall Street Journal indicates many third-party developers are being allowed access to Gmail user emails for personalized ads.

Google said a year ago it would stop its computers from scanning the inboxes of Gmail users for information to personalize advertisements, saying it wanted users to “remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount.”

However, the search, and everything else, giant is continuing to allow third-part 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.”

Developers that a part of Google’s Gmail program are allowed to access and read user emails to create new services or features for their apps. While most of the scanning is performed electronically via software, human eyes are reading at least some of the emails.


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. 

Sadly, Google allowing third-parties to scan emails is not an unusual practice, as Microsoft and Verizon’s Oath Communications also allow partners to read user emails. Oath says access is considered on a case-by-case basis, and requires explicit consent from users. (Always read the fine print before clicking the “I Accept” button, kids!)

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