New Report Highlights Employees at Some Third-Party Email Apps Reading User Emails

There are a variety of options for users who want to access email, but there’s no denying that Google’s option, Gmail, is the biggest of the big.

And while Google offers its own first-party applications to access Gmail, third-party apps are ridiculously popular. But a new report from The Wall Street Journal aims to shed some light on what the headline calls “tech’s ‘dirty secret'”. In the report, it’s revealed that many different third-party email services, most of which work with Google’s Gmail, allow employees to read user’s emails. The goal, in most of these cases at least, appears to be an attempt to build better tools for the email app, and not necessarily a conscious effort to invade people’s privacy.

However, in a situation like Return Path, which is a service for email marketers that has over 150 different app partners, the revelation that two years ago it allowed its employees to read 8,000 customer emails in full is certainly noteworthy. The goal here was to train the software’s built-in tools, according to the WSJ. Similarly, another popular service, Edison Software, allowed its employees to read customer emails as it built out its Smart Reply feature.

In these cases, the companies say that these actions are covered in their user license agreement that users agree to before they use the app. However, the report makes it clear that while that might be the case, with the direction hidden in the fine print, there is no explicit warning of the fact that these companies may let employees read emails. This is not a direct opt-in or opt-out situation.

Google, for its part, doesn’t actually read emails any longer. It ended that practice last year over detailed security concerns. However, while Google doesn’t do it, it certainly allows third-party companies to continue to do so. And these practices also relate to other email services like Yahoo and Microsoft’s Outlook.

The full report can be read through the source link below.

Our Take

The fact that Google itself has stopped scanning user emails is great news from last year, considering how important user security is. However, the fact that the company simply lets third-party companies do it instead is certainly frustrating. Of course, there are alternatives — including Apple’s own email service.

Do you use Apple’s email option? Do you care if random employees read through your emails?

[via WSJ]