tech2 News StaffSep 22, 2016 14:41:08 IST
Edward Snowden, an ex CIA employee and whistle-blower who exposed several global surveillance operations has recommended that users avoid the Allo instant messaging app by Google. Allo launched yesterday, the first platform to be integrated with Google's new intelligent agent, Google Assistant. Google had announced at the I/O conference earlier this year that Allo would not be saving messages on its own servers, but that is not the case with the final application.
The reason for saving the communications in Google servers is apparently to improve Google Assistant, which is a win for machine learning, but a loss for privacy. However, upon request, Google can make the data available to law enforcement agencies. These concerns over security prompted Snowden to tweet out a warning against using the newly launched app.
There were a flurry of responses. Some of these posed the question to Snowden, which instant messaging app is safest to use. Snowden's messaging client of choice is Signal.
The danger that Snowden is trying to point out here is that while Google may be officially claiming to log the chats to improve its own Artificial Intelligence offerings, the choice was made knowing that the private communications would be made available to law enforcement agencies upon request. Allo works as a surrogate mass surveillance system, because Google simply hands over user data when enforcement agencies request it.
Allo does have an incognito mode for secure conversations. The messages are not saved on a central server, and there is a timer that allows destruction of sent messages in as little as five seconds. A messaging client such as WhatsApp that by default does not save messages in its own servers is a more secure option, as there is no data saved to comply with requests by law enforcement agencies.