Google admits it allows developers to collect Gmail data
Google may face more heat from Washington lawmakers about how it safeguards customer data.
The search giant, whose Gmail is used by 1.4 billion people, admitted on Thursday that it continues to allow developers to scan users’ accounts to collect information.
But Google failed to answer questions from senators about how many developers have been caught violating its email-scanning rules.
Lawmakers and regulators have been focused on how Silicon Valley giants treat customer data — and have been threatening to clamp down on companies that don’t safeguard such information.
Google stopped scanning its Gmail for keywords last year — but still allows third-party developers to do so, according to a July letter from Susan Molinari, Google point person for governmental affairs.
“When we detect anomalous behaviour, we investigate,” Molinari said in the letter, which was released on Thursday. “And when we suspend apps, we warn users to remove the apps’ access to their data.”
Gmail requires users to give consent before installing third-party extensions, whose functions vary from helping send emails to getting price-match rebates from retailers.
Under Google’s policies, software firms that create these add-ons must inform users about how they collect and share Gmail data.
“Developers may share data with third parties so long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data,” Molinari wrote.
Federal officials and state regulators have sharpened their focus on tech firms’ handling of personal data after Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in March — which saw the data of nearly 90 million users fall into the hands of the President Trump-affiliated research firm.
Google may face more questions on Sept. 26, when it is scheduled to appear at a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee — alongside Apple, AT&T and Twitter.
The committee is expected to question the companies on their consumer-data privacy practices.
Shares of Google parent Alphabet ended trading up 1.5 percent on Thursday, to $1,191.57.
Acxiom, a $3 billion ad data broker, comes out in favor of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s quest to bring GDPR-like regulation to the United States