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When is the last time you read an app's privacy policy from top to bottom? If you're like me, you can probably count the times on one hand (if you've even done it that much).

Reading lengthy terms of service agreements or privacy policies put a damper on the instant gratification in today's digital age. You may want to start reading them soon because not reading the app's policies might be exactly what the company is betting on.

Google caters to over one billion users around the world. The users who are eager to take advantage of new features like trip planning or auto-reply are some of the individuals who Google might be compromising.

In a letter to US senators, Google admitted that they let some third-party apps scan your emails.

"Developers may share data with third parties as long as they are transparent with the users about how they are using the data," Susan Molinari, vice president of public policy and government affairs at Google said in the letter.

SEE: Best apps for securing Android and managing privacy settings

Of course, apps do signal their intentions with their privacy policies. The information is buried deep in those pesky terms of service agreements that companies hope you're not reading.

"[W]e make the privacy policy easily accessible to users to review before deciding whether to grant access," Molinari said.

Google's promise of easily digestible user agreements is contradicted by research. In a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, half of internet users didn't know what a privacy policy was. In July the security company Varonis found that people aren't reading service agreements because of the length.

The advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) changed the privacy policy length and overall readability for companies.

For instance, before GDPR on average privacy policies were about eight pages long, took 20 minutes to read, and required a GED or equivalent to understand.

As a whole, privacy policies didn't change much after GDPR. On average they run about 7 pages, take about 17 minutes to read, and require a GED or equivalent to understand.

Individual companies though are where you can see drastic changes. Google, for example, lengthened their policy by 38 percent and it takes six minutes longer to read it. eBay might be the most difficult to process. The company's privacy policy is almost 6,000 words, takes nearly half an hour to read, and to understand it fully, you almost need a doctorate.

Molinari said developers with access to Gmail data have to adhere to Google's User Data Policy and API Terms of Service.

"If your application requests data for one reason but the data will also be utilized for a secondary purpose, you must notify Google users of both use cases," the User Data Policy reads. "As a general matter, users should be able to readily understand the value of providing the data that your application requests, as well as the consequences of sharing that data with your application."

Apps are reviewed periodically by Google to ensure that they're operating up to code. Google suspends apps that fall out of compliance.

While Google doesn't offer options to opt out of third-party apps scanning your email (other than deleting the app). Users will be warned if they're about to download an app that hasn't been verified by Google.

In a time when privacy seems easily compromisable, it might be worth taking an afternoon to read the fine print of all your apps' privacy policies.

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  1. Google admitted in a letter to US Senators that it lets third-party apps scan user emails to collect data.
  2. Google said users consent to the scan in lengthy, hard to understand privacy policies. The only stipulation for apps to gain entry is the promise to be transparent with Google about plans for the data.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.