"Data-mining companies commonly use free apps and services to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, according to current and former employees of these companies", the report said. Gmail users can easily adjust the settings themselves from the settings panel; although it is unlikely that many people are aware of this.
Before you freak out, you should know that you've probably given your consent to those apps scanning your inbox, and, thus, having computers automatically go through your emails.
"Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret", Mr Loder told the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal originally reported that two apps in particular have admitted to reading emails.
If you want to find out which apps have access to your account information, it's rather simple.
Before a non-Google app may access data, Google shows a permissions screen that displays the types of data the app can access and how it can use that data.
In another case, employees of Edison Software, another Gmail developer that makes a mobile app for reading and organizing email, personally reviewed the emails of hundreds of users to build a new feature, says Mikael Berner, the company's CEO.
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In a blog post, Google outlined how it works with outside software developers.
Gmail is the world's most popular email service with 1.4 billion users.
It's not news that Google and many top email providers enable outside developers to access users' inboxes.
While these kind of apps do ask for user consent, numerous forms don't make it explicitly clear that a human will be reading through your emails, not just a machine.
The Journal cites companies like Return Path, a marketing service that reviewed about 8,000 emails two years ago while working on its software; computers can handle about 100 million messages per day.
Critics and security experts have said that while the policy may be covered in the user agreement, it's still not a "reasonable" stipulation that third parties can access a user's private data. However, that level of anonymisation doesn't seem to apply to its third party developers. You should be on the safe side with Google apps, which would include apps like Chrome or Google Maps. It added that its own employees may read emails but only in "very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where we need to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse".
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