Is Someone Reading Your Emails?

reading emails

A concern for people that need to sync their email data with a third party app usually relates to the security of their data. They also worry about others reading emails or spying on them. But most don’t realise that it is not usually the third party they have to worry about. Their email client is probably already doing this. 

Reading the small print

With over 1.8 billion users, Gmail remains the most popular email worldwide owning around 43% of the total market share. That’s a lot of users. And most of those users pay little attention to Google’s Privacy Policy. Their policy makes it clear that by using Google’s services, they could be reading emails.

We also collect the content you create, upload, or receive from others when using our services. This includes things like email you write and receive, photos and videos you save, docs and spreadsheets you create, and comments you make on YouTube videos.

Permission granted

There are several reasons why Google collects data and this is also set out in their Policy. For example, they use your data to build better services as well as providing personalised content to you. It also sets out when it will share your data. Essentially you are permitting them to spy on you. Of course, you can always delete your account or revoke access but then you have the hassle of finding a new email provider and migrating your data. 

Accordingly most people accept the terms at inception and never think about them again. However, it always strikes me as strange when someone decides not to proceed with email syncing apps like Threads because of privacy concerns, when they have provided arguably the largest global marketeer with unfettered access.

Free for all

But of course, it’s not just Google that is reading emails. Any email provider or mail relay system that your email goes through to reach its destination will likely do the same. In fact most free services will also be mining your data. They do, after all say, there is no such thing as a free lunch

But whilst Google may have a vested interest in reading emails – most professionals, including your work colleagues – do not. In fact, 90% of most people’s private email messages are rarely very interesting. An email to your partner reminding them to feed the dog or an email from your dentist confirming your appointment later that day is unexciting. 

Of course, if you were plotting a major crime or involved in illegal activity then perhaps this would make compelling reading. Although if this is the case, then there are probably other agencies out there that are more likely to be reading your email than your colleagues or Google. 

No worries

So should you be worried? Well it depends. Most companies will usually have an email policy that entitles their employers to read emails sent or received by their company email accounts. 

It is also the case that the line between personal and company emails can become blurred. What used to be consigned to paper and filed away is now easily accessible (and searchable). 

In general though, the position is as stated above – most emails are unremarkable. With that being the case, consider the reverse position –  the complete sharing of all emails amongst team members. Knowing that all emails are being shared is likely to promote a culture of transparency and openness and also remove the temptation to send inappropriate emails. With this is mind, perhaps the knowledge that others can read our emails is, after all, beneficial.