Everyone agrees with the ultimate goal of improving user privacy, but there can be drawbacks to locking down popular services. Users of IFTTT (If This, Then That) are in for a rude awakening next week. Google is rolling out new API restrictions for Gmail that block most of IFTTT’s features for the email platform.
IFTTT helps tie together online services all across the web. Users can set up “Applets” consisting of triggers (the IF part) and actions (THEN). For example, you can configure IFTTT to log high temperatures from your smart thermostat in a Google Spreadsheet or automatically repost Instagram images on Twitter. Gmail currently has IF triggers that search your inbox for emails with keywords, senders, and so on. Now for much longer, though.
The roots of this problem reach back to a breathless report in the Wall Street Journal in the summer of 2018 that claimed Gmail app developers have been reading your email. What it actually meant was that Gmail’s OAuth account access was too simple — if you allowed an application to access to Gmail, it had access to all of it. Even apps that didn’t need the full text of emails for their intended function would have access to that after you signed in. Google began tightening access to Gmail content for third-party apps, and that’s where IFTTT comes in.
As of March 31, Google is placing new restrictions on Gmail apps. Apps can no longer read, create, or modify message bodies. None of IFTTT’s seven Gmail triggers will work anymore after the new API rules go into effect. In conversations with Google, IFTTT was able to keep two of the Gmail actions: sending yourself an email and sending an email to someone else. However, the trigger needs to be from another service.
When IFTTT launched, it developed many of the service integration in-house. In more recent years, most integrations are maintained by the companies that run the services. In the case of Gmail, IFTTT looked at how it might be able to retain the email scanning functionality itself, but it would have required major changes to the IFTTT platform. Maintaining full integration would have been unsustainable for IFTTT, so it’s disabling most of the Gmail features.
You can log into your IFTTT account to see which of your Applets are affected by the change. The new API rules only affect Gmail. Other G Suite services like Google Drive and Assistant will remain operating normally.
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