GOP Sens. Press Google on Gmail Data Sharing

Republican Senate leaders say Larry Page has some explaining to do.

That came in a letter to the Alphabet (Google) CEO in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report that third-party app developers had access to Gmail accounts, including being able to read emails.

They cited one example in which a third-party developer gave 8,000 unredacted emails to analysts to train its algorithms.

It is only the latest in a string of data privacy issues facing major edge providers. Facebook is also under the klieg lights in D.C. for, among other things, sharing user data with Cambridge Analytica.

Signing on to the letter were Commerce Committee chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.); Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Communications Subcommittee; and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) chairman of the Consumer Protection Subcommittee.

They are looking for information the company's privacy policy and practices around Gmail. Among their concerns is that Google did not properly insure that its data was properly safeguarded.

Related: Thune, Nelson Want Answers From Facebook

“While we recognize that third party email apps need access to Gmail data to provide various services, and that users consent to much of this access, the full scope of the use of email content and the ease with which developer employees may be able to read personal emails are likely not well understood by most consumers," they said.

Related: Edge Providers Targeted With EU Privacy Complaints

Among the questions they have for Page are whether there are any data protection policies app developers must agree to to access the Gmail data and whether Google allows its employees to access the content of Gmail users' personal emails, and whether any app developer has shared data with a third party for any reason.

They want answers, in writing, by 5 p.m. July 24.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.