September 28, 2016

Concerns raised about Google Allo’s privacy settings

Google’s Allo was released recently and by all measurable standards has so far been a real success story.

Allo is a chat app with a difference. Its Google Assistant feature means that it can intelligently offer you services that you may require during your conversations. For example, if you are talking about going to a restaurant with a friend, the assistant feature will automatically suggest restaurants nearby that you may like.

As well as this, it also has an advanced predictive text feature that will learn what you say and how you speak to accurately guess how you might want to reply.

One thing that is causing a bit of concern, however, is that due to fact that both these features rely on learning about your habits and the way you speak, they require a significant amount of data.

This means that the messages sent using the app will be stored infinitely on Google’s servers. There will also be no encryption offered on normal chats. This has caused some people, including Edward Snowden, to flag up concerns about how this will affect its user’s privacy.

The lack of features to keep your data private is especially concerning when considering the fact that when Google announced the service, they promised end to end encryption and only the temporary storing of messages.

The fact that Google will not be encrypting conversations and will actually be saving your messages means that the messages could theoretically be accessed by governments should they put in a lawful request your data and conversations.

This is a sensitive subject worldwide. In another huge case, messaging company Whatsapp has had a lot of trouble in countries such as Brazil for failing to hand over user data.

One positive thing about the Allo app is that there is still the option to use the app’s incognito mode which will encrypt messages and store them only temporarily.

However, this, of course, means that you won’t get the benefits of the extra features that Allo offers.

The reason Google has given for the change in the way the app works is that saving messages will drastically improve its smart reply and predictive text features. This is because, as with most types of AI, the more data the computer has, the more accurate its features become.

As with other types of modern technology, it will ultimately come down to the user to decide how much data they are willing to give away to tech companies in exchange for an improved service.