Allo’s Biggest Critic

In an apparent effort to capitalize on the success of Snapchat, Google has recently released a chat app called Allo.  Those who want more Snapchats out there might be excited, but there’s one person who certainly isn’t a fan: Edward Snowden.  He’s warned people not to use the new app, since it lets the company read everything that you say.  The app comes with a robot that watches everything people say, then stores it for analysis to improve the app itself.  But that also means that chats are stored on Google’s servers indefinitely.  While the company had at first indicated that the messages would only be stored temporarily, limiting the possible impact of any data breach and retaining some privacy, it now appears that Google will be keeping hold of all conversations.  

Google will be using the data from these stored conversations to improve parts of the app, yet it would also be able to use that same data to target ads at users; since personal conversations might include extremely sensitive data, some people might object to that level of prying.  Yet making this change does keep Google on the right side of the law; Allo conversations will be accessible by law enforcement with warrants, which can’t happen on apps like iMessage or WhatsApp, neither of which are able to give up information to authorities.  After it was revealed at Google’s I/O conference earlier this year, Snowden had called the app “dangerous”.  Yet recently, he released a whole string of tweets urging his followers to not use Allo.

Google does let people switch into an Incognito mode where conversations will be end-to-end encrypted and can’t be read by Google.  However, that isn’t turned on by default, and leading most of the app’s features to break, turning it into just a conventional chat app.  According to a Google spokesperson, your chat history will be “saved for you until you choose to delete it”, and you’ll be able to delete single messages or entire conversations.  

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