WASHINGTON — Senior lawmakers requested answers from Alphabet Inc. on Tuesday about its privacy questions surrounding Gmail, the company’s popular email service.
In a letter from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-S.D., and two subcommittee chairmen, the lawmakers asked Larry Page, Alphabet’s chief executive, to explain the company’s practice of allowing third-party app developers to scan email contents for commercial purposes. That practice was revealed last week in The Wall Street Journal.
The lawmakers expressed concern that most consumers don’t understand how app developers may be using data from emails including, the letter said, “giving access to personal emails to their employees.” The senators said that Google may not be doing enough to safeguard Gmail data and asked the company to detail all the instances in which app developers have shared Gmail data with third parties.
While Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc. GOOGL, -0.01% GOOG, -0.10% , a year ago abandoned the practice of scanning email contents for serving ads, the company continues to let hundreds of outside developers scan the inboxes of Gmail users who signed up for email-based services. Those services commonly use free apps and offers to hook users into giving up access to their inboxes without clearly stating what data they collect and what they are doing with it, current and former employees of these companies told The Journal.
An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.
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