Google tries to calm controversy over app developers having access to your Gmail

Google has published a new blog post in response to a story from The Wall Street Journal yesterday detailing how common it is for developers of third-party applications to read and analyze the content of a message of the user's Gmail. While it does not offer any substantially new information about industry practice, which is now considered fairly widespread, Google describes the measures that a user and a business organization can use to protect their privacy and security. The company also reiterates its commitment to investigate those applications and services of third parties that have access to confidential Gmail data.

"A vibrant ecosystem of non-Google applications lets you choose and helps you get the most out of your email," says the company's blog post, written by Suzanne Frey, director of the Security, Trust division and Privacy of the Google Cloud company. "However, before a non-Google published application can access your Gmail messages, it goes through a multi-step review process that includes an automatic and manual review of the developer, evaluation of the privacy policy and the page main application to ensure that it is legitimate, application, and in-app tests to ensure that the application works as it says it does. "

Frey offers Some tips to ensure that your data is in the hands of reliable sources. These include reviewing the permission screen before giving access to a non-Google application and using the company's security check tool to verify which devices have been entered into your account, what third-party applications have access to Gmail and what permissions have those applications. It also says that Google's review process is designed to ensure that businesses and people do not misrepresent themselves and only request data relevant to the function they are providing.

While the history of WSJ did not unearth any errors of third-party applications or services using Gmail, it did illuminate a previously discrete industrial practice now under more intense scrutiny after the Cambridge Analytica of Facebook Scandal of data privacy. Facebook gave users access to user data extensively for years, creating a situation in which tens of millions of people had their personal information packaged and sold to a data mining company without proper consent. Google is now in the position of having to more actively defend its own data management and user privacy practices, mainly to convince users and companies that, unlike Facebook, Google is, in fact, a responsible administrator of the confidential data of the users.

Last year, Google announced that it would stop scanning the content of Gmail user messages for advertising purposes as part of a strategy to make its G Suite offer more attractive to corporate customers. Google saw, long before Cambridge Analytica, that it was not a particularly smart business strategy to target ads based on people's private conversations, especially when some users do not have a clear idea of ​​how Gmail is actually monetized. Frey reiterates this in today's publication, where he is careful to point out how "the main business model of Gmail is to sell our paid email service to organizations as part of G Suite", and that while there are still ads in the version for Gmail consumers, those ads are no longer segmented based on the content of the emails.

"The practice of automatic processing has caused some to erroneously speculate that Google & # 39; reads" their emails, "Frey writes. "To be absolutely clear: nobody in Google reads your Gmail, except in very specific cases where you ask us and we give your consent, or when we need it for security reasons, such as the investigation of an error or abuse."

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