Email has been the norm for decades now, as most digitally connected people use it to communicate in both their personal and professional lives. One of the most popular email services out there today is Google’s offering, Gmail, which has 1.4 billion users. Many people use the platform daily, even connecting it to third-party apps – a feature that may have exposed actually exposed private Gmail messages. Just yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that people who have connected third-party apps to their accounts may have unwittingly given external developers permission to read their messages.
But wait – how could hundreds of developers just access users’ private inboxes? As a matter of fact, Google allows these developers to scan the inboxes of millions of users per its official policy. This policy is outlined when people are asked if they wish to connect their Google account to third-party apps and services. When linking their account to a service, people are asked to grant certain permissions – which often include the ability to “read, send, delete and manage your email.”
Now, the developers who have access to users’ Gmail inboxes have been vetted by Google. And to them, this access is the norm. Thede Loder, the former CTO at eDataSource Inc., said that reading user emails has become “common practice” for companies that collect this type of data. “Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret… It’s kind of reality,” he notes.
Though this news may be unsurprising to people like Loder, it’s likely very surprising to others, proving there’s a gap in awareness and understanding of what Gmail users are signing themselves up for. Therefore, if you’re a Gmail user wishing to keep the information exchanged in your emails private, be sure to follow these tips:
- Be selective. The best way to control where your information goes is by reducing the sources you share it with. That means not providing Gmail access to every app that asks for it. Be strict and diligent, and only provide an app access when it’s crucial to the service or experience it provides.
- Read the terms and conditions. If you are going to share access to your Gmail or your information with an application or website, be sure you read the terms and conditions carefully. Though it may feel tedious, it’s important you know where your information is going and how it is being used.
- Use comprehensive security. Even though this data was willingly given, it’s important you still lock down all your devices with an extra layer of security to help keep yourself safe. To do just that, use a comprehensive solution such as McAfee Total Protection, in addition to limiting the amount of personal data you post and share.
And, of course, to stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats, be sure to follow me and @McAfee_Home on Twitter, listen to our podcast Hackable? and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
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