In a letter to senators, a top Google official said the company allows app developers to scan Gmail accounts, even though Google itself stopped the practice for the goal of ad targeting previous year.
Later, Google said in a blog post that the company is continuously vetting developers and their apps that integrate with Gmail before it opens them for general access.
The senators asked whether Google was aware of "any instances of an app developer sharing Gmail user data with a third party for any purpose".
In 2017, Google had said its computers will soon stop reading the emails of its Gmail users to personalise their ads.
Google told US senators it still allows third-party app developers who work with Gmail and build software to scan user inboxes, even though it has stopped processing Gmail messages to target ads, the Wall Street Journal reports. And the company says that it makes sure that these policies are easily found by Gmail users so they can be reviewed by them before deciding to allow the information to be used.
The senators wanted more answers about Google's claim that it reviews and enforces each app's compliance with its policies.
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These days, Google displays an "unverified app" warning for all apps that haven't been verified -- a change it introduce after someone a year ago tricked millions of Gmail users into granting access to a bogus Google Docs apps. Some of the tools used by these developers are provided by Gmail, and some app developers have actually read the content of users' emails in order to fine tune their algorithms.
Google had better hope that all the apps with such privileges are indeed properly informing users about passing data on to other third parties.
Google has stated that it's fine with this, as detailed in a letter by Susan Molinari (spotted by CNN Money), who is VP of public policy and government affairs at the company.
She also said Google restricts this type of access to a "very limited number of individuals", requires documentation of when access is granted, and routinely audits access.
If you'd rather not wait for Google to offer the option, Lifehacker's David Murphy points out that you can block the replies box using uBlock Origin.