Google Allo lands on Android and iOS, and it’s logging everything you type

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Google Allo
Google Allo on Android and iOS.
Photo: Google

Allo, the exciting new messaging platform from Google, landed on Android and iOS today — but you might want to think twice before you rush to download it. Every conversation you have with Allo will be logged by Google (unless you remember to go incognito).

Unveiled at Google I/O back in May, Allo replaces Google Hangouts, and it comes with a big focus on simplicity. You don’t need a new account to start using it, so it’s super simply to setup, and it has almost as many features as Messages in iOS 10.

Allo also has the new Google Assistant built-in, so not only can you use it to chat to friends, but you can put it to work by feeding it commands like “find sushi places nearby,” “what’s the weather like in New York City today,” and “show me funny cat videos.”

Google also promises that Allo “keeps your conversations secure and private,” and it vowed during its I/O keynote that all your conversations would be transient and non-identifiable. But it seems the search giant has broken those promises already.

Allo records all of your conversations by default, unless you use the incognito mode, which boasts end-to-end encryption but sacrifices Google Assistant. What’s more, those conversations stick around until you manually delete them.

All your messages will be encrypted between your device and Google’s servers — in the same way that your Hangouts and Gmail data is — but once they’ve made their way to Google’s servers, the company is free to access them.

That means Allo conversations will also be accessible to law enforcement agencies by default. Google has previously insisted, however, that it will not grant access to your data as the result of a subpoena; “we believe a warrant is required by the Fourth Amendment.”

Google backtracked on earlier promises to make Allo’s smart reply feature possible, according to The VergeLike all learning systems, it requires access to your data to learn more about you, and to suggest replies that you’ll actually find useful.

Allo smart reply
Allo’s smart reply feature in action.
Photo: Google

To some, features like smart reply and the Google Assistant will be worth the sacrifice. To many others, privacy is more important, and therefore Allo is a no-no.