Say Hello to Allo, Google’s answer to WhatsApp, Viber and a host of other similar apps.
It was only four months ago that Google announced two new communication apps; Duo for video calling, which launched last month, and Allo which is fresh on the market this week.
And while Allo is without doubt a good looking and practical app, it has come in for some sharp criticism over its lack of privacy, and apparent change of heart over regarding user security.
The search giant originally said that all conversations would only be stored on a temporary basis so that authorities from whatever region of the globe would not be able to access historical data in the event of an investigation. Now however, it seems that Google has backtracked on that promise, and will be storing users data for well, pretty much forever, unless users opt for incognito mode, or manually delete their own histories.
Google’s reason for this…
…Or so it says, is to help it improve Allo’s smart reply feature which helps users by predicting responses to messages. Critics however have accused the company of attempting to appease law enforcement agencies, and privacy campaigners are up in arms about the change.
Allo also doesn’t feature any end to end encryption as standard, which according to Edward Snowden himself, makes Allo both unsafe and dangerous for anyone worried about keeping their data safe. If users activate incognito mode however, then the messages received and transmitted will be encrypted, which for some commentators has raised quizzical eyebrows.
Privacy campaigners and consumer watchdogs have accused Google of sleight of hand and rowing back on earlier promises. Daniel Nesbitt, the research director at Big Brother Watch told the BBC:
“It’s important that citizens are given enough information about what will happen to their data for them make an informed choice about whether or not they want to use this service. This includes who may be able to access it and where the data will be stored.”
A Google spokesperson responded to the criticism by saying:
“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. We’ve given users transparency and control over their data in Google Allo.”