by Timothy Lee

Filed Under:
email api, security, social networks


Google Shores Up Email Security With Contacts API

from the your-password-please dept

Anyone who's visited more than a handful of "social networking" sites have come across one that asks you to give it the password to your GMail/HotMail/Yahoo! account in order to add everyone in your email address book to your list of friends. This kind of borderline spam request is questionable in the best of circumstances, but Ben Adida points out a frightening story in which one of these sites was emailing the username and password of every user to the author's personal GMail account. Fortunately, the guy who discovered this says he did the right thing, deleting the accumulated emails, closing the account, and notifying Google. So it looks like no major harm was done. But this general pattern of a website asking for the user's password on another site is a serious problem, because it gets users in the habit of handing over passwords to sites that may or may not be trustworthy. Users ought to refuse to comply with these requests. The problem is that most sites don't provide a more secure mechanism for giving third-party sites secure and limited access to information in a user's accounts. But Adida notes that Google is working to fix the problem by releasing an API that allows third-party sites to securely access GMail users' contact information. The key difference here is that instead of giving the third-party site her GMail password, the site sends a request to Google and then the user has to log into GMail to authorize the sharing. This gives the third-party site limited access to the user's contact data without ever seeing the user's actual password. It's a great idea, and I hope Yahoo! and Microsoft follow suit.

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