Google released its Allo messenger application yesterday, and right along with it a measure of controversy that has critics urging potential users to stay away.
The angst stems from what seems to be a reversal on Google’s part to start logging chats in the app’s non-incognito mode by default, something the company said in May it would not do when Allo was unveiled at its I/O conference.
All messages sent through Allo are encrypted; only in incognito mode are messages are encrypted end-to-end. The concern is that since chats are now logged until the user deletes them, Google could more readily comply with law enforcement and government requests for user data because few consumers are likely to change default settings.
“That’s very concerning and raises questions about whether Google made this change at the request of law enforcement,” said Claire T. Gartland, Electronic Privacy Information Center Consumer Protection Counsel.
“From my perspective, this change signals that Google is more interested in targeted advertising profits and maintaining the company’s cozy relationship with the U.S. government than in protecting their customers’ privacy and security,” Gartland said.
Three years ago, Google published its policy for handling law enforcement requests and explained its promise to push back against or refuse to comply with overly broad requests, and require a warrant to compel it to provide user account information or search query data.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden was among the most vocal opponents on Twitter today, advocating that privacy-seeking individuals steer clear of Allo in favor of other secure messaging apps such as Signal. “What is #Allo? A Google app that records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request,” Snowden tweeted.
What people want: tech companies not storing their chat logs. What tech companies give them — pointless bots. pic.twitter.com/2ypCmFpRV0
— Matthew Green (@matthew_d_green) September 21, 2016