If you follow tech trends, you may already be aware of the heated arguments that have sprung up around Google’s new messaging app, Allo. The app is meant to combine the convenience of messaging apps like WhatsApp with the power of AI (artificial intelligence). The goal is to create a virtual personal assistant that will help you plan outings with friends, keep better track of your calendar, and have instant access to information that you would otherwise have to look up. While the app’s baked-in AI is meant as a boon, many people have expressed concerns about the gaps in privacy that leave user’s data accessible to federal investigators and potentially other prying eyes.
Trading Privacy for Convenience?
Allo’s AI is designed to sort through and process relevant information from your conversations. If you’re chatting with friends about going out to see a movie, the app will automatically return showtimes at nearby theaters. If you’re talking about a recent game, you can ask the app to show the final score. The idea is to present the information you’re looking for without requiring you to leave the app, making it easier to navigate than industry behemoths such as Facebook Messenger and iMessage.
So with all of these perks, what’s the downside? According to many experts, this convenience comes at a cost. Because the app does not include end-to-end data encryption, it leaves personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks. In addition, chat logs are held on Google’s servers forever, meaning that your data could be given to law enforcement agencies upon request. Even Edward Snowden has weighed in and publicly discouraged consumers from using the app because of these security concerns.
For those who would like to take advantage of the app’s convenience without worrying about cybersecurity, Allo does offer an incognito mode. When this option is chosen, your browser history isn’t stored and you can even set a timer for messages to self-destruct. When in incognito mode, your data is protected by the same end-to-end encryption scheme used by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger’s secret conversations mode.
So should you use Allo? That depends on your level of trust in Google, and your willingness to accept the risk of others potentially accessing your messages. If you do take the plunge, yet you are still wary of the security implications, simply keep incognito mode always turned on within the app.
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