When Google announced that it would stop reading Gmail inboxes, that didn't mean they wouldn't be read.
Hundreds of third-party software developers are given access to millions of email inboxes, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Even though Google promised last year that it would prioritize "privacy and security" over email analysis for targeted ads, it hasn't asked its developers to adhere to the same policies.
Users who sign up for email-based services and apps are often unwittingly signing up to have their email inboxes analyzed and mined for data, sometimes by human employees who read emails to help them design better software. Services like price comparisons or travel itinerary planners analyze millions of emails a day, gathering contact information, purchase information, and time stamps to learn when users open messages. One former developer executive says it's "common practice" for employees to read user data. "Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret," he said. "It's kind of reality."
Google told the Journal that only users who have given explicit permission to outside developers have their inboxes read. Two developer companies say their user agreements cover the practice, though they don't specifically ask a user whether they consent to inbox analysis. The privacy policies don't mention the possibility of humans reading user emails. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.