It feels like our privacy has been under attack for quite some time now. That's because it has.
Incidents like the massive data breach at Equifax hasn't helped matters. Nearly half of all Americans had their sensitive information exposed in that breach.
Then, a few months ago, we found out that Facebook wasn't to be trusted after handing out millions of its users' data to Cambridge Analytica. Well, brace yourself. It turns out Google has fallen into the same shady category.
Google is also breaching its users' trust
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported this week that Google is allowing software developers to read private messages of Gmail users. Last year, Google promised to stop scanning Gmail users' inboxes.
However, according to the WSJ, it's not protecting users from third-party software developers. Gmail users who have previously signed up for email-based services like shopping price comparisons, and automated travel-itinerary planners are at the highest risk of having their private emails read.
There are hundreds of app developers scanning inboxes of users who signed up for some of these programs. Some programs ask users to opt-in when signing up for their service. In the fine print, some agreements are giving those companies permission to access their email inbox.
Google does have a vetting process for app developers and it only accepts those with a strong privacy agreement. The problem is, it's unclear if the app developers are sticking by those agreements. Furthermore, we don't know what Google is doing, if anything, to ensure the app developers are adhering to the privacy agreements.
In fact, one CEO of a software development company told WSJ that its employees had read emails from hundreds of Gmail users as a way to build a new feature. Another executive from yet another company said its employees reading private emails has become "common practice."
Google might not even be the sole culprit in these situations. Other tech companies like Microsoft could also have the same problem. Since app users are opting in and giving permission to the developer when they sign up, it's mostly out of the companies' hands.
That's why it's critical to read the fine print when signing up for anything with a user agreement. There could be something in it like this that exposes your private information.
Listen to this free podcast on the dangers of terms of service agreements
Each time you "click here to agree," a piece of your privacy dies. Most of us use smartphones, Facebook, Twitter, Google and dozens of other apps. Each one makes you agree to a contract that you likely didn't read.
Do you know what you've given up? Click below to listen to my free Komando on Demand podcast about how our need for convenience is coming at a very high price. Special thanks to Ira Rheingold, Executive Director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates.
Have a question about anything tech related? Kim has your answer! Click here to send Kim a question.
Private web browsing doesn't hide everything
There’s a lot of talk these days about protecting your privacy online, and for good reason. Whether you are searching for the latest news, shopping for something special or just browsing your favorite social media sites, there are steps you can take to help keep your activities discreet by doing so privately.