Edward Snowden has warned people not to use Google’s new chat app, because it lets the company read everything that they say.Google has finally released its new chat app after showing it off over the summer. It comes with a robot that watches everything people say and then stores it for later analysis, using that data to improve the app itself.
But that also means that chats are stored on Google’s servers indefinitely, and are able to be read by it. The company had initially indicated that the messages would only be stored temporarily, limiting the possible impact of any data breach and retaining some privacy for users.
The latest controversy over Google app stems from an Allo product developer from Google’s communications division telling The Techtwister in May that chats sent on the app would be “transiently” stored on its servers. But, according to Techtwister, Allo developers have decided to ditch transient storage.Had Allo been designed so that chat logs vanished by default from Google’s servers after a short time, they would have been difficult to access if law enforcement presented Google with a warrant. And, as Snowden pointed out, the US foreign intelligence surveillance court approved every one of the nearly 1,500 communication intercept requests made by the NSA and FBI last year.
As it stands, the new product is on par with Google Hangouts and Gmail, which use HTTPS to secure transmissions between users and its servers, but is then available for Google’s algorithms to use at its data centers.Allo does support end-to-end encryption, which should make it difficult for anyone but recipient and sender to view the contents of messages: but Google was criticized by Snowden and other privacy advocates for setting it as off by default. Snowden already called Allo “dangerous” after it was revealed at Google’s I/O conference earlier this year.
Google does allow people to switch into a different mode, called Incognito, where conversations will be end-to-end encrypted so that they can’t be read by Google. But that isn’t turned on by default and leads most of the app’s features to break, turning it into just a conventional chat app.”We’ve given users transparency and control over their data in Google Allo,” said a Google spokesperson. “And our approach is simple – your chat history is saved for you until you choose to delete it. You can delete single messages or entire conversations in Allo.