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Google’s Allo is rolling out globally but so are its privacy concerns


Google‘s Allo chat app is finally beginning its global rollout, but the app’s launch and initial reception was far from a walk in the park. Things only got worse when whistleblower Edward Snowden came out to say to warn the public to not use Allo.

Allo was first announced earlier this year during Google’s I/O developer conference. It brings several interesting features, most notable of which was Google’s Assistant. This Assistant lives within the application and can either be interacted with like a chat bot via a dedicated chat window or as a “helpful” assistant within your conversations with friends.


The Google Assistant utilises Google’s incredible machine learning to give you useful suggestions in chat as well as answer questions that you ask it. However, as The Verge notes in their review, the Google Assistant is still a “Preview Edition” and does often come up short.


Besides that, Allo can send pictures, stickers, text, emojis and all the other things you’ve come to expect from modern messaging applications. Everything sounds pretty good so far right? Google’s come up with a solid chat app with the added feature of having the Google Assistant built-in as a trump card.

But here’s where the big problem rears its ugly head — privacy,

Initially, Google talked about their new message retention practice of keeping messages transiently (i.e. for a short period of time) rather than indefinitely. This message retention is important for the performance and machine learning of the Google Assistant so it can more accurately provide you with the right responses and information it needs.

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However, when Google finally rolled out the application, it looks like Google has backed off on that and will, in fact, keep your messages indefinitely until you delete them yourself. This means that Google will have default access to full conversations in the application. While that’s scary enough, the fact that Google has access to all of your chat history also means that law enforcements can have access to your messages through lawful requests.

A fact that Edward Snowden makes very clear in his series of tweets:


The Verge reports that according to Google, this change was made to improve Allo’s smart reply feature. This is a feature that analyses your past responses and suggests responses based on the messages you receive in a chat.

As with most suggestion and machine learning systems, the more data the system has to work with, the more accurate the suggestions will be. According to them, when the Allo team tested those replies, they decided that the increased performance obtained by storing all of your messages was worth the privacy benefits.

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Of course, this is not to say that all privacy is lost with Google’s new chat app. With Allo, Google has also included an Incognito chat mode which is end-to-end encrypted so you can chat privately. These Incognito chats can also be set to self-destruct after a certain time period.

Still, this is certainly a consideration for those of us who live under tin foiled hats. Is privacy a big issue for you? Let me know in the comments below.

[SOURCE, 2, 3]