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Google says no to a previously announced Allo privacy feature

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Google’s Allo app was one of the highlights of its I/O conference, earlier this year. The company projected the app as a significant boost to user privacy. A whole assortment of features were discussed at that point that did make the app look like a tempting install. However, the app has been released and Google has backed off some of the features it professed to offer near the beginning of the year.

Okay so first off,  Allo will store all non-incognito messages by default. Basically, every conversation will be stored until you specifically tell the app to stop doing so. This is a clear departure from Google’s earlier position that the application would only be storing messages in a non-identifiable and transient form. What’s more, the records will also persist until and unless the user actively deletes them.

This basically makes your conversations accessible to Google — and whoever can force or coerce Google to part with them. Meanwhile, if you are particular about that sort of thing, you can avoid  logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which has remained end-to-end encrypted.

When asked for an explanation, Google pointed towards its Allo assistant’s smart reply feature. If you recall, the feature will suggest automatic responses during conversations and like all other such algorithms, get better as its used more. However, learning to improve is possible only when it has a database of messages to access. Also, the greater the number of messages in its database, the greater will be the capabilities of Allo.

So, Google is basically giving up transient and temporary storage of messages in return for a smarter Allo assistant. However, the messages will still be available to law enforcement agencies if they manage to get a court warrant for the same. Meanwhile, another advantage to Google, of giving users incognito mode and not deleting all of the conversations on its own is that it wont face bans like WhatsApp did in Brazil, when it cited its inability to provide law enforcement with data, citing end to end encryption.


 

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