Google announced the Allo instant messaging app, at this year’s Google I/O conference alongside the Duo video chat app. Duo calls are fully encrypted, and Allo also features encryption, however, the company has now confirmed changes to how it stores non-incognito messages.
With the launch of the Allo on Wednesday, Google says it will be permanently storing all non-incognito messages. Earlier in May, Google had stated that Allo will keep only temporary message logs. But it turns out that the company requires chats to be logged to provide more data to its machine learning algorithms, with the aim to improve the functionality of its Assistant and Smart reply features.
This essentially means that chat records will be stored until the user deletes them, giving Google full access to chat histories. Non-incognito messages still feature encryption when being transmitted between the device and Google’s servers, however, Google will be able to decrypt the messages on its servers for the aforementioned reasons. On the other hand, Allo’s Incognito Mode option is still end-to-end encrypted for users who would rather keep their private chats, private. Google will not be able to access these messages in any form. “When you chat in Incognito mode, messages have end-to-end encryption and additional privacy features like discreet notifications and message expiration,” Google mentions in a blog post.
The chats in Incognito Mode are encrypted and there is an expiry timer to chats so they disappear after a set time limit. The duration of time can be set by the user. However, using the Incognito Mode means users won’t get to make use of Allo’s Smart reply and Assistant. All of this of course means that those users truly worried about privacy would have no reason to use Allo, as its smart features are its biggest USPs.
Speaking to Gadgets 360, Amit Fulay, Project Manager for Real Time Communications at Google, explained,”Obviously we use TLS even in non-incognito chats. It’s a value trade off, and Smart reply and Assistant bring a lot of value to the users. And it’s still easy to go incognito whenever you want to.”
While the move for a less private messaging app is a win for Google’s machine learning, Allo’s privacy is being put into question and users may not take to it given as how other popular messaging platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are slowly moving towards end-to-end encryption.