Search engine giant Google made a late entry early this week into the crowding artificial intelligence market. Given the name bankrolling the new AI app Allo, it elicited considerable attention and made the headline across all tech news headlines.
Naturally, reviewers took to dissecting the app into pieces looking for the pros and cons to give a verdict. Abou three days later, the verdict is in; Allo is as insecure as they come. By default the app allows Google to eavesdrop on your conversations, and not only that, even government and hackers too can if they put in enough effort.
As it works out…
Allo has no end-to-end encryption by default for your chats. That means, all conversations on the app are privy to you, intended receiver, Google, hackers, and even governments [Snowden actually said, “don’t use it!”].
To Google, not encrypting your chat is a good thing as they get more data on you to feed Allo to enable it to give you a more intuitive and relevant response. The more it learns about you (using machine learning technology), the more near-human-like response you will get from the chat bot. Going forward, it might reach a point where chatting with Allo will be more fun than chatting with an actual human being. Considering it has the entire internet to reference from, a human chat-mate does not stand a chance against Allo.
How to Stay Secured on Allo
If the idea of using a unencrypted app does not sit well with you, here is a workaround to staying secure while using Allo. Just like the Chrome browser, Allo too has the incognito mode, which when activated. It does not store any information about you, and no one can eavesdrop on your conversation.
To go incognito, hit the ‘message icon’ (well, it looks like a message icon … sort of) on the homepage. Select ‘Start incognito chat’ and scroll to the contact you would like to chat with and go chatty all you want.
Benefits of Incognito Chat on Allo
Other than the obvious security reasons of no third party eavesdropping on your conversations, you also get to set when you want the message to vanish. You can send disappearing messages, which will ‘evaporate’ after a duration you determine. This feature is useful especially when you don’t want any trace of the message found on your phone or the recipient’s phone.
It may seem like paranoia to show this much reservation about Allo because it is unencrypted. Largely because there are other numerous apps we use every day that are unencrypted: Snapchat, Slack, Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM to mention a few. Nonetheless, if mind your privacy that much, then I would suggest you stick to apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage, which are encrypted by default.
‘Hey, What’s up?’ and ‘Hi, hello.’ From the name, it seems like Google was very creative and original in coming up with the name. It sounds like a remix of the name WhatsApp, and perhaps we could get more imitation of it on Allo with time.