Google admits third-party devs can access your Gmail messages

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"Data-mining companies commonly use free apps and services to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, according to current and former employees of these companies", the report said.

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", says Mr. Loder.

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"When a user connects through third party email applications, the application has access to all content because, technically, your connection to the email application is via the mail server where all emails are stored". If you're a Google Apps for Business user, you can set permissions so that your users can't even grant those sorts of permissions, either per app or in general. This is done by showing users ads based on what they like, which in the past Google used to scan the emails of users to see what they might be interested in. What is unclear is how closely these outside developers adhere to their own agreements and whether Google does anything to ensure they do. Any of Gmail's 1.3 billion users who have connected their email addresses to apps may have unknowingly given those apps permission to read their communications. Then, working on machines that prevented them from downloading information to other devices, they read the personal email messages of hundreds of users-with user information already redacted-along with the system's suggested replies, manually indicating whether each made sense.

Or look at permissions within myaccount.google.com under "Apps with account access". Developing those features isn't easy, though, and the WSJ reported that some developers read users' emails to help speed up the process.

"The practice of automatic processing has caused some to speculate mistakenly that Google "reads" your emails", the blog post says.

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The report said at one point, Return Path workers read about 8000 unredacted emails to train their company's scanning software. There is no suggestion of misuse of data by Google or its third-party providers.

If you want to take a look, navigate to "Google Account", which should be in the top-right section of your Gmail screen on desktop.

Security expert Troy Hunt says that agreeing to give any app access to your email is a serious decision with big implications for your privacy and data security, but that the possibility of an another person seeing your private communications isn't really the part you should be anxious about.

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