App developers have been reading your Gmail, and it's alarmingly common

The increased scrutiny follows the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the now defunct data firm accused of misusing the personal information of more than 80 million Facebook users in an attempt to sway elections.

A report from the Wall Street Journal has shed light on the fact that app and software developers can access a users' Gmail account, with the ability to read emails, and that the practice is a common one across email providers. A Microsoft spokesperson said developers were not allowed to access customer data without consent. According to the sources, this "revelation" is nothing new within the industry as it is standard practice for most companies. It said that it wanted users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount". We suggested the very same thing past year after a big Google Docs phishing scam hit Google users.

You can opt out of data sharing in some cases - or you can stop using the service. Consumers' reaction is becoming a major challenge for tech companies as they face lawmakers, lawsuits and the threat of regulation over data policies they say they've been telling us about all along.

Google "does little to police those developers, who train their computers - and, in some cases, employees - to read their users' emails", the Journal reported.

One security expert said it was "surprising" that Google allowed it. "As anyone who knows anything about software knows, humans program software - artificial intelligence comes directly from human intelligence", it said. From there you will be able to see all the apps that now have access to your Google account, and you can remove some of them if you no longer use them or if you're not comfortable with it.

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. You did that so that you could take advantage of a particular type of app built around email, like a service that tells you when prices for specific products goes down.

Khatibloo pointed out that the Gmail controversy affected more than just Gmail users.

But it turns out that your email isn't perfectly confidential as actual humans might be reading the emails you send and receive.

  • Latoya Cobb