Gmail users can easily adjust the settings themselves from the settings panel; although it is unlikely that many people are aware of this.
It pointed the BBC to its developer policies, which state: "There should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed objective of your application may lead Google to suspend your ability to access Google API Services".
"Some people might consider that to be a dirty secret". Both companies have used their email access to enhance their products and build new technology, representatives told the Wall Street Journal.
Two third-party apps have come under particular scrutiny. If you're a Google Apps for Business user, you can set permissions so that your users can't even grant those sorts of permissions, either per app or in general. Some people don't bother to read the permissions when they hastily start clicking through security/privacy prompts, but Google says that developers need a user's explicit consent to monitor your Gmail account. Google, whose Gmail service is the most popular of its kind at over a billion active users, has insisted that its current developer policies cover this practice. Although most of the work is still done by computers, in one case, a company called "Return Path" allowed some 8,000 emails to be read, unaltered, by its employees.
Neither Return Path nor Edison asked users specifically whether it could read their emails. Employees of Edison Software apparently reviewed the emails of hundreds of its users to make a new feature for its mobile app that reads and organizes your email.
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"Overall there should be no surprises for Google users: hidden features, services, or actions that are inconsistent with the marketed objective of your application may lead Google to suspend [access]".
"You can also view and control permissions within myaccount.google.com under Apps".
The three groups are apps that allow for "Signing in with Google", "Third-party apps with account access", and "Google apps".
Using a service like Gmail puts you at the mercy of companies like Google. The company said "no-one at Google reads your Gmail, except in very specific cases where you ask us to and give consent, or where [it needs] to for security purposes, such as investigating a bug or abuse".