The problem first came to light when customers complained on Virgin Media forums that they had been sent emails informing them of changes to Google privacy policies even though they did not have a Gmail account, but the problem also affected Sky customers.
Although Virgin uses Gmail to deliver its email service, users complained that Google shouldn’t even have had their address, and that it was not their primary email provider so shouldn’t be setting privacy policies.
Google has admitted the mistake was due to a systems glitch, but the error – a privacy problem in its own right – has angered some users.
“Let’s get one thing clear – I am not a Google user,” posted one user, dubbed Slated, on the Virgin forums. “So why am I getting this? Why does Google even have access to my account?”
In order to ensure this service is provided to you successfully, Google must have access to your Sky username
“While Google provides the back-end service that powers these users’ email accounts, we do not have any direct relationship with these users and contacted them in error. We’ve since fixed this glitch.”
Virgin and Sky stressed customer privacy contracts remained with the ISPs rather than Google.
Google didn’t explain how users’ addresses had been shared, but Sky issued a set of FAQs outlining the depth of the information shared with Google.
“Google’s technology supports the Sky email service. In order to ensure this service is provided to you successfully, Google must have access to your Sky username,” Sky said.
“Sky does not share any information with Google other than your Sky username. Google needs this to ensure that the service is provided successfully.”