Google revealed Thursday that it still permits app developers to access and share data from the accounts of Gmail users.
In a letter to top Senate Republicans who recently questioned the company over its data practices, Google vice president for public policy Susan Molinari said that third parties are granted access only if users give consent.
“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.
The issue emerged last July after the Wall Street Journal reported that hundreds of app developers regularly scanned and even read emails in Gmail inboxes.
One company was alleged to have read as many as 8,000 emails while developing their app.
Republican Sens. John Thune (S.D.), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.) soon after demanded answers over how Google was policing access.
“Does Google allow its own employees to access the content of Gmail users’ personal emails?” the trio asked. “If so, what safeguards does Google have in place to ensure that personal email content is not misused or shared more broadly?”
“While we recognize that third party email apps need access to Gmail data to provide various services, and that users consent to much of this access, the full scope of the use of email content and the ease with which developer employees may be able to read personal emails are likely not well understood by most consumers.”
The report comes amid numerous scandals concerning the tech giant, which remains one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world.
Google refused to join a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing earlier this month attended by Facebook and Twitter.
The company has also experienced backlash both internally and externally over its plan to develop a censored version of its search engine for China.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote a letter last week urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to explain the secretive “Dragonfly” project.
“Google should not be helping China crack down on free speech and political dissent,” Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said on Twitter. “I just sent this letter with some of my Republican and Democratic colleagues raising our serious concerns and questions about what they’re doing.”
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