Email is one of the oldest and most sacred Internet services still in use. Despite attempts to kill it, it remains the backbone of communication over the Internet and, as such, is a treasure trove of personal data. Exactly because of that, and the threat of lawsuits and fines, Google has stopped its practice of letting its employees read emails. But while the search giant has promised to be good, it doesn’t seem to enforce that same standard on third-party apps and developers who surprisingly admit letting their employees read those precious emails.
In short, Google employees may no longer be reading your emails, but third-party apps that connect to your Gmail can and do. The Wall Street Journal reports that Return Path, Inc. and Edison Software admit as much. And, to be fair, they aren’t singling out Google either. Microsoft and Yahoo, now under Verizon’s Oath, are also subjected to the same practice.
Perhaps even more worrying is that, for these companies, it’s no big deal. It’s not even a “dirty secret” but a common practice that no one has just talked about until now. Many of these apps don’t even ask your explicit consent to let their employees read emails. They argue that it’s covered by the user agreements that no user ever reads anyway. All for the sake of “improving the service”.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be a big deal for email service providers like Google either. While it does have policies in place to protect email privacy, developers say they have never heard of Google enforcing those anyway. The same is true for Microsoft and Yahoo/Oath. That obviously hasn’t stopped this “common practice”.
Google and friends might themselves be committed to protecting your data, but their commitment stops at their own doors. Sadly, they have left such doors open for third-parties to take advantage of legal loopholes. Google et al. are also leaving the responsibility of policing to users, forcing them to figure out if their chosen app does or doesn’t violate their privacy. The best stop-gap solution right now is, ironically, just using Gmail directly.