How to stop your private Gmail messages being read by third parties

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According to a report by the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Google allows various third-party app developers to sift through its users Gmail messages under the guise of offering users better products and services.

Users need to give explicit consent to applications or services, and if that happens through a token-based system that Google uses for this kind of authorization, it does happen without users having to supply their username or password to these companies.

The companies said they had not asked users for specific permission to read their Gmail messages, because the practice was covered by their user agreements.

Despite assuring users to "remain confident that Google will keep privacy and security paramount", the search giant is still reportedly allowing third-party app developers scan through Gmail accounts, the Wall Street Journal has claimed.

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The feature was finally dropped a year ago, in a move welcomed by privacy advocates, but it turns out employees of third-party app developers may well have been reading your private messages.

The outside app companies receive access to messages from Gmail users who signed up for things like price-comparison services or automated travel-itinerary planners, according to The Journal.

Return Path posted a response to the report on its website, saying it had worked with the reporter on the story and felt they were "extremely and somewhat carelessly selective" in what information the reporter chose to include.

Clients and services may require access; a third-party email client needs access to emails, and an add-on that runs directly on Gmail needs access as well.

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One is Return Path, an app that collects data for marketers from users' inboxes.

Even as Facebook struggles to recover from the massive data scandal that wiped off billions of dollars from its market cap, other tech giants aren't breathing easy either.

The other is Edison Software, an email management app.

Google says users can access the Secutiry Check-up page to see linked apps and change security settings if they would like to stop sharing data with certain apps.

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While these kind of apps do ask for user consent, numerous forms don't make it explicitly clear that a human will be reading through your emails, not just a machine.