Gmail: How to keep your personal data private

After all the revelations over the past few years that both governments and corporations are collecting and analyzing much of our online activity, it’s no surprise that our emails are also being read. Nonetheless, in a story earlier this month, the Washington Post reported a particularly egregious case: while Google itself had already declared last year that it would stop snooping to provide personalized ads from your Gmail account, third-party access was maintained. In other words, even if Google no longer analyzes your messages, applications you gave permission to access your Gmail account on your cell phone still allow their developers to see them. The intent is typically not especially nefarious: App developers normally demand permission to access some of your other applications, features or information on your phone so they can use it for marketing purposes. But not only do these businesses use automated systems to search the emails in a more general fashion to pick out some keywords, but the Washington Post report reveals that even individual emails could be scanned and read by the workers themselves. A real goldmine for marketing firms, but not an especially assuring notion for anyone who would like to enjoy confidentiality when using Gmail.

Fortunately, in this situation, shielding yourself from unwanted attention is quite easy. The organization itself provides a way to block apps from accessing Gmail in the settings in order to be fair to Google, but it can be very easy to miss. With two simple steps, you can stop apps from accessing your Gmail.

Step 1: Simply go to this page: If you prefer to know how to access these settings for yourself (aside from using the link), then simply log in to Gmail and move your cursor to your account-icon in the upper-right corner. Underneath, it should be possible to click the button ‘Google account’. On the next page you come to, click on ‘Apps with account access’.

Step 2: Manage your app-settings: once you’re in this menu, you will be able to review all the apps that have access to your Gmail account and remove this access, if you so choose.
And all you need is that! There is no need for additional steps. Please note that if, for example, you allow an app to access your Gmail account so you can use it to read your emails on your cell phone, it won’t work anymore. Other well-used apps often require access to your Gmail (for example, to change your planner). Ultimately, it’s your decision that companies allow you to access your personal data, but when you search your apps and find out that you don’t trust a whole lot (or worse, you don’t even know), then it’s obviously time to withdraw their access to your Gmail.

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