Gadgets

Edward Snowden has named the one app you definitely shouldn’t be using

Posted by
David Cornish
Published

"Don't use Allo." 

That's the harsh, succinct summary former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has just given Google's new AI messenger app, Allo.

"Free for download today: Google Mail, Google Maps, and Google Surveillance," he wrote on Twitter. "That's #Allo. Don't use Allo."

Google Allo is a new 'smart' messaging service: it's got all the usual features of a messenger app like WhatsApp/Facebook Messenger - there are stickers, emoji, text changing tools, super cute fluffy stuff.

It also uses Google's super smart artificial intelligence systems, bringing the omniscience of Google into conversations. Want to find a restaurant or bar in the area? Or share a video with your mates? Just add the @google chat bot to your conversation and it'll interact with you like a real personal assistant.

So what's Snowden's beef?

Privacy (c'mon, you could have guessed). 

Allo's default setting sees Google store all of your conversations indefinitely. The company had previously stated that Allo would only access messages transiently, using them to help the AI become more intelligent, but deleting user information when it was no longer required. On launching Allo, Google has seemingly changed its stance on the storing of messages, collecting all conversations unless you start one in the app's Incognito mode. And that's a big worry for Snowden.

"Thinking about #Allo? Last year, our secret court approved 100 per cent of requests for surveillance. They would cover Allo."

As Snowden sees it, Allo's ability to store conversations is as good as giving the US Government permission to read them, should they put a request in to Google to see the data. 

"We've given users transparency and control over their data in Google Allo," said a Google spokesperson in response to fears over the app's stance on privacy. "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.

"We also provide the option to chat in Incognito mode, where messages are end-to-end encrypted and you can set a timer to automatically delete messages for your device and the person you’re chatting with's device at a set time."

As for what messaging apps you should be using? Services like Tor or Signal, that specialise in sending encrypted messages that aren't stored by anyone else, other than the intended recipient. 

Thanks Ed.

(Image: Rex)

Topics

Share this article

Author

David Cornish

Shortlist.com’s esteemed Tech Editor. David has a keen interest in video games, Star Wars and stuff that runs on batteries.

Related Posts