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Google’s Allo App is a little too Snoopy

by on21 September 2016


Google’s new messaging app, Allo, is so snoopy that it might have to pay the Peanuts artist’s estate royalties.

To be honest, no one expected much from Google, after all the outfit makes its cash by snuffling personal details from searches and personalising advertising. In this case it was already in the doghouse because its integration with Google’s new AI assistant (called, imaginatively, Assistant) requires messages to be sent without end-to-end encryption on by default. So not only could Google’s Assistant  read your messages, and provide contextual aid – but it also means Google can read them, and the coppers, national security, anyone with a valid warrant or an ability to hack your line.

Google did promise that Allo would have some of the most progressive message retention policies of any app. It would not keep your texts forever, they would instead be stored “transiently”, ensuring that your full chat logs aren’t sitting on Google’s servers. They would also be anonymous so that even if the logs are subpoenaed, they can’t be linked back to the sender.

However, mysteriously those features were dropped. By default, messages are stored indefinitely, and linked directly to an account. While it is true that defaults can be changed if you are a member of a death cult who does not want to store your commands from your handler you can change them. You can also turn on end-to-end encryption as part of the app’s Incognito mode. That kills off Google Assistant which means you might have to use an alternative mapping method while travelling to where you want to let off your suicide bomb, which means your average terrorist will have to carry three. One for the bomb, one for the messaging and one to look at Google maps.

For those not wanting to do that, Google will snoop on you by default.

The search outfit said that the ephemerality was removed from the shipped version to improve the “smart reply” feature on Allo, which learns from your previous conversations to suggest automatic replies to the latest message sent. If it has more data, the better the replies.

Last modified on 21 September 2016
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