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This Google app could share your search history with your contacts unprompted

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Paddy Maddison
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We wrote recently to inform you of the horrifying news that there is a new app that could allow complete strangers to identify you in the street by simply taking your photograph.

Well, fasten your proverbial seat belts because things are getting even worse.

Let me put it to you like this: remember all those personal things you happily punched into Google on your computer keyboard? Things like: “why shit black after eating 20oz sirloin steak”, “correct way to measure penis with plastic ruler”, “can u die from drinking three Red Bulls in a row”… or, you know, all that other stuff.

But it’s fine, right? Because all of that sensitive information is strictly between you and a guy sat in some underground government surveillance facility in a hollowed out volcano, laughing at you in between sips of tea. 

Yeah, well get ready to eat a big fucking slice of nightmare pie, because a glitch in Google’s Allo messaging app means that that information could be shared with all of your contacts, without your consent.

According to a Re/code report late yesterday, Google’s Allo app "has been found to be capable of sharing users' past Google searches with contacts, without being prompted to". 

The report says that this ‘glitch’ could have big implications for users’ privacy – the phrase ‘no shit, Sherlock’ springs to mind.

It was Recode’s Tess Townsend who made the frightening discovery when she was using the app to chat with a friend.

"In the middle of our conversation, my friend directed [the chat] Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series," she wrote. 

"But the response was not merely a non sequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier.” 

So, not only has Tess Townsend’s mate uncovered a major digital privacy issue, he’s also outed himself as a massive nerd.

Google responded, saying: "We were notified about the Assistant in group chats not working as intended. We've fixed the issue and appreciate the report." 
 

The app has been criticised heavily by privacy advocates, as it doesn’t use end-to-end encryption like similar services, such as WhatsApp.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden has also previously warned about the app, tweeting: "What is #Allo? A Google app that records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request." 

Suitably freaked out now? Don’t worry, take a look at some of these ridiculous Google Autofill results we found on Twitter instead.

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Paddy Maddison

Paddy is a freelance writer with a penchant for menswear, music, pies and beer. When he's not busy putting his Northern fingers to keyboard, he can be found around London complaining about the cost of things.

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