Google responds to lawmaker concerns over Gmail scanning

Ceria Alfonso
Setiembre 21, 2018

How else is a third-party app made specifically for Gmail supposed to function?

The main worry, though, is how all this sounds very open-ended when it comes to app developers being able to pass on user data to other third-parties, as long as they are "transparent".

Of particular import is the company's allowance of third-party apps to not only scrape data from Gmail accounts but also the ability of said app owners to literally read users' emails.

"Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data", Google's Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs wrote in the letter addressed to senators.

The Wall Street Journal reported in July that despite assuring users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount", the search giant is still allowing third-party app developers scan through Gmail accounts. In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires full disclosure on this front. "And they must have a privacy policy that details how the data will be used".

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Google said in a letter to USA senators made public on Thursday that it relies on automated scans and reports from security researchers to monitor add-ons after launch, but did not respond to lawmakers' request to say how many have been caught violating the company's policies.

The letter, which confirms a story released at the time, goes on to say that any company that is likely to scan your mail has to show its privacy policy clearly before the user grants access or even download the add-on in the first place.

How user data flows between big technology platforms such as Google and Facebook Inc and their partners has faced scrutiny around the world this year since Facebook revealed it had done little to monitor such relationships. A lot of Gmail users probably didn't realize the contents of their emails could be used in that way.

Now, privacy officials from Google, Apple and Amazon are preparing to travel to Capitol Hill next week, for a Commerce Committee hearing.

Google made no comment to CNN but referred them to a blog post in which it explains the review process, automatic and manual safeguarding, app testing and assessment of policy.

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