Google employees cannot read your Gmail content--but some app developers can.
Google's parent company, Alphabet, sent a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill admitting that app developers can gather data from Gmail accounts and share it with third parties, the Wall Street Journal reports. Google itself used to do this for ad targeting purposes but stopped the practice last year. Some app companies even have the ability to read the contents of your emails and share that information freely, but Google says it makes sure these companies first disclose to users how they're using the data.
Susan Molinari, Google's vice president for public policy and government affairs for the Americas, wrote in the letter that app companies must make their privacy policies "easily accessible to users to review before deciding whether to grant access." Information that app companies gather include what products you've purchased or who you communicate with the most using Gmail, according to WSJ.
Business owners who use Gmail for company email can prevent employees from installing apps that have not been approved by the company, according to Google. You can also look up which apps have access to your information by clicking on "Apps with account access" on your account settings, and revoke any permissions previously granted.
Alphabet's letter came in response to questions from Congress about privacy and how the contents of emails could potentially be misused. Lawmakers have taken a closer look at how tech companies guard their users' data against bad actors in the wake of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal that exposed the personal information of more than 87 million Facebook users.
At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing scheduled for September 26, executives from Google, Amazon, Twitter, and Apple will testify about how their companies safeguard
consumer data privacy.