One year ago, Google said that they would stop their computers from scanning Gmail users inboxes which would be used for information to specifically “personalize” advertisements. Their goal was to ensure the privacy and security of their software to the customers. However; little policing is being done. Outside services continue to scan Gmail, and sometimes Yahoo, inboxes to create things like shopping comparisons, suggested purchases, recommended travel info, etc. A Wall Street Journal examination has even found that there are employees hired to read and scan through emails, to assist in suggested services like this.
Return Path Inc. is one of the many companies that collects inbox data. They collect information from around 2 million users that are signed up for one of the many free apps that partner with Return Path, who use a Gmail, Yahoo, or Microsoft email. Computers scan millions of emails a day, and employees scan them, to train specific company software. Emails are even scanned to “build new features”, according to Mikael Berner.
Scanning and reading emails is claimed to now be a “common practice” among data collection companies in order to better train and build new software. However, companies such as Return Path and eDataSource claim that this is part of their user agreement that is signed. Google is also saying that emails are now only read when permission is given to them, or an outside source.
Some Things They Look For:
- Message sent and open time: This information is used to see when people are most active, so that they can send promotions around the active times.
- Location and age: To specifically tend to age location demographic advertising.
- Sentence structure: To help software better for algorithms.
- Purchasing information: To organize best selling products and to better understand price/spending trends.
Although there is no obvious indication that gained information and data has been misused, people are still suspicious about their personal lives being under review. Advocates claim that it poses risk leak to private information; which is an obvious concern. Although this can be a helpful tool sometimes, it can also be a huge bother, and concern.
There is always large discussion on the privacy rights of apps like email and social media. Often times, there are settings that can be enabled to maintain privacy, and not allow your data to be used. With many recent privacy hacks regarding social media sites, such as Facebook, there is an obvious understanding for uprising concern in the community. Of course, personalized data can come in handy, but unwanted ads filling up your inbox can get rather annoying.
People are always trying to find other ways to effectively gain data the same way, or better, just with more privacy. Since you can never really know when your emails are being used as tools, there is not much you can do per-say. Most of the time, there is no harm done in using emails and other apps for information and software training. It has been found to be a more personal preference due to the privacy fact. So far, no harm has been done, and smart technology is highly benefiting from it. But no one wants to stick around to see harm it could possibly cause.