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The third-party developers who have access to Gmail user data allegedly share them with marketers, hedge funds and other businesses.

The Wall Street Journal's Douglas MacMillan reports Google promised to stop the practice because it wanted users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount".

It's not news that Google and most of the other top email providers enable outside developers to access the inboxes of users.

The Wall Street Journal published what seemed like a bombshell report about developers being able to read your emails if you give them access to your Gmail account. Many of these developers simply want to offer a new email app, help you sift through your emails, or do something else you can't achieve through Gmail's core experience. According to the report, apparently it has become "common practice" for marketing companies to scan the emails of their users, although we suppose common isn't necessarily good. A Microsoft spokesperson said developers were not allowed to access customer data without consent.

Both companies told the WSJ that the practice is covered under their user agreements, and that its employees have strict rules about what they can and can't do with the emails they read. We suggested the very same thing past year after a big Google Docs phishing scam hit Google users.

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It pointed the BBC to its developer policies, which state: "There should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed goal of your application may lead Google to suspend your ability to access Google API Services".

You can remove access for any service or application listed on the page and should do so for any that you don't use.

These IT employees are permitted to use systems or even other workers to read user emails.

Fatemeh Khatibloo, and analyst at Forrester, said tech companies need to make clear to users what the tradeoff is for receiving services for free. At one point about two years ago, Return Path employees read about 8,000 unredacted emails to help train the company's software, people familiar with the episode say.

Although Return Path declined to comment on details of the incident, it did say it sometimes lets employees see emails when fixing problems with its algorithms.


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