Are Gmail app developers reading your emails? Google clarifies

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"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 report added, saying data miners generally have access to other email services besides Gmail.

Because many of these apps increase the functionality of your Gmail, Thompson doesn't think Google should do away with them.

"Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret".

Such tools can be used to compared prices or plan holidays, and can result in human workers reading users' email correspondence rather than computer algorithms, according to the Wall Street Journal. No, but third-party apps might be. For instance, the Security Checkup shows all non-Google apps that have access to your data and flags potentially risky apps so you can revoke any previously-granted permissions that you are no longer comfortable with.

Google has confirmed anyone who has linked third-party apps to their accounts may have unknowingly allowed third-party developers to read their private emails.

In a blog post, Google outlined how it works with outside software developers. According to the report, hundreds of outside developers are being allowed by Google to scan the inboxes of users who have previously signed up for newsletters on various websites.

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You likely gave the "Signing in with Google" apps permission to access such data because you wanted to use your Google login to sign into your accounts with them instead of having to create separate user accounts and passwords. At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company's software, people familiar with the episode say. Users don't know, for example, that people - not just computers - can and do read emails.

The category that you'll want to pay particularly close attention to, however, are apps that are labeled "Third-party apps with account access".

Google is only supposed to allow proper vetted third-party developers access to this treasure trove of information, and you can see the requirements here. You should be on the safe side with Google apps, which would include apps like Chrome or Google Maps.

The revelation comes at a bad time for Google and Gmail, the world's largest email service, with 1.4 billion users.

Only request relevant data: Apps should ask only for the data they need for their specific function - nothing more - and be clear about how they are using it.