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Privacy Concerns for Google Allo

Google Allo Privacy Concerns

It’s been on the cards for a while. Google has rolled out a new messaging App for Smartphone titled ‘Allo’, but what about user Privacy?   The new messaging app features the mighty Google Assistant ‘@google’ similar to ‘Siri’. Ask Google Assistant a question and it will return answers. As you can see in my screen shot below I asked questions via voice such as ‘restaurants nearby’ and it returned results listing those closest, with an option to show on map or view the actual search results – I could then it Like it with a thumb up or Not Like it with a thumb down. It also provides directions, news, weather, the list goes on, it’s integrated with Maps, Youtube and Translate. . Oh yeah and it can embed videos into your chat. No bother to it, even with my accent and the information is spot on up to the minute.

Google Allo Virtual Assistant

The App which is available for iOS and Android devices, is powered by Google’s machine learning software technology. This cool tech learns how its users talk over time to generate more accurate and appropriate responses,so great value anticipating needs. AI (artificial intelligence) which drives the virtual assistant is something which we are going to see more of as social media apps develop, improving and enhancing user’s personal experience. Of course if messages are deleted smart reply won’t work as it learns from your data, thereby rendering ‘secure mode’ worthless.

As with other Apps, once you download, install and register your mobile number you’ll need to give permission to access contacts so you can start group or individual conversations. Also you’ll need to allow access to your microphone on your device to be able to use voice with the virtual assistant. But what’s very interesting about the App is that unlike other attempts from Google, they don’t force users to get an account to be able to use Allo.

There are 3 types of chat available; normal messaging, talking to the assistant and one to one chats. One to one chats having the anonymity feature.

Unlike messaging App WhatsApp, Google Allo does not offer end to end encryption by default, instead this is done via the Incognito Chat mode. Within the App you can set up an expiry time for messages. However concerns have been raised by privacy advocates in relation to Google itself having access to all of the chat data. Understandably this allows them to further develop their AI infrastructure with conversations but even conversations within Incognito Chat mode are stored unless you manually delete them. According to Google, ‘our approach is simple — your chat history is saved for you until you choose to delete it’. Ok then but what about user privacy?

Within the messaging component of the App users can use playful features like doodle and stickers, send video, audio clips, photos, and emoji so although slick and enjoyable to use these features are not that much different from other similar apps in the marketplace.   It’s too early to say if Allo will catch on for the masses to the extent of WhatsApp or Snapchat but a major concern for many will be the issue around end to end encryption and conversations being stored for info, unless you decide (and remember!) to delete them.

If you’d like more practical tips on how to stay safer online as well as protecting and managing your Online Reputation then grab a copy of my book.


Posted By Wayne Denner

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Wayne Denner shares his knowledge & expertise on leading tech industry blog.

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