Google has just released its new chat app after it had unveiled it in the summer. Just like its competitors, Facebook’s Messenger and Apple’s iMessage, it is a chat app with bots, called Google Assistant that can be invoked within a chat by typing @Google. Amidst the excitement that surround’s new apps from top companies, Google’s Allo is receiving lots of criticism from Edward Snowden, who claims the app is used as a surveillance device by the company.
When Google was unveiling Allo back in May, it said that the app would have end-to-end encryption in ‘Incognito Mode’ and store messages for only a limited time. However, when the app was released it did not use end-to-end encryption and reportedly users’ messages are stored indefinitely. These messages could be accessed by law enforcement when they have a warrant. Snowden notes that because Google is in a position to read everything people say, we should not install the app.
Google primary reason for storing personal messages is to use this data to improve parts of the app, including smart replies feature. The app will go through conversation and try to work out how people talk – it can then use this data to suggest what they might want to say to their friends. Also, Google will presumably use the same information in the future to target ads to users. This is so since personal conversation might include sensitive data that can easily lead to prying off a kind that most people would prefer.
Snowden has been sending out lots of tweets informing people not to use Allo. “Free for download today: Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Surveillance,” he wrote that’s #Allo, don’t use it. Another read “what is#Allo? A Google app that records every message that you ever send and makes it available to police upon request”. Snowden started discrediting Allo back in May when Google unveiled the app.
A Google’s spokesperson noted that they are giving users transparency and control over their data, and their approach is simple – a chat history is only saved for you until you decide to delete it. A person can delete single messages or even the entire conversations in Allo.
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