Google confirmed in late 2018 that it allows some external apps to read and analyse inboxes of Gmail users.
External apps can integrate with Gmail so customers have options around how they use their email, director of security at Google Cloud Suzanne Frey said in a blog post.
Before an app is able to access your data, Google always shows a ‘permissions screen’ that details the data the app can access, Ms Frey explained.
In 2017, Google announced it would no longer scan Gmail to personalise advertisements.
“To be absolutely clear: no-one at Google reads your Gmail,” Ms Frey said.
Ms Frey’s response came in the wake of a report in the Wall Street Journal that claimed Google allowed apps, including shopping price comparison and travel itinerary platforms, to read emails using automated tools.
According to the report, Google does little to police the activities of these app developers and, in some cases, employees to read their users’ emails.
It detailed how companies such as Return Path and Edison Software review Gmail users’ emails to help them train their company’s software and build new email features for marketing and other purposes.
Ms Frey claimed that Google has a rigorous review process to protect its email customers.
“Before a published, non-Google app can access your Gmail messages, it goes through a multi-step review process,” Ms Frey wrote.
How to check if your emails are safe
Google allows you to check which apps are connected to your account.
Navigate to ‘Google Account’, which should be in the top-right section of your Gmail screen on desktop.
Once in your account, you can find the ‘Apps with account access’ button under the sign-in and security section.
On this page, you can see which apps have access to your account, as well as apps and sites where you use your Google password to log in.
Click ‘Manage Apps’, and Google breaks apps into three categories:
- Third-party apps with account access
- Those you use your Google password to log into
- Google apps that you have installed.
If you look at the third-party apps you have installed, you can see what information they collect. If you are unhappy with these apps having that level of access to your data, click ‘remove access’ to get rid of any that make you suspicious, or any that you don’t use regularly.