• Sumna Akhtar

Edward Snowden’s critic on Google’s messaging app “Allo” is baseless.

Edward Snowden’s critic on Google’s messaging app “Allo” is baseless.

Google is yet to come with a powerful messaging application to challenge competitors like WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Telegram & iMessage. Calling it simply a messaging application will be an understatement as it is powered with super cool features like AI tech, Google assistance integration, Snapchat-like photo inking and Whisper Shout with which you can change the font size of a message to make an impression. Despite these appealing gags what makes famous whistle blower & former NSA contractor Edward Snowden upset is the fact that Google has kept its end-to-end encryption turned off by default. In a recent tweet Snowden referred Allo as “dangerous and “unsafe” suggesting users to avoid it for security breaches.

Let me explain end-to-end encryption first-it ensures that the messages sent are protected by the ends of two parties only (i.e, receiver & sender) no one else can read it not even the service provider, your messages are secured with a lock which can be decipher only with a special key which only you & the recipient have to read the message. As the security issues are increasing day by day so is the demand to keep everything private nobody wants to be spied by any government agencies or let the hacker have a free fun show.

There were many instances when end-to-end encryption was claimed but still the company introduce some backdoor to eavesdrops their users willingly or unwillingly .In 2013 information leaked by Edward Snowden showed that popularly known video calling app Skype had a back door which allowed Microsoft to hand over user’s message to the NSA despite the fact that those message were end-to-end encrypted .So what’s actually happening is users are being deceived into exploiting their privacy which cannot be accepted but it must be understood first that Google do have end-to-end encryption but it is kept turned off by default because Allo supports many features which cannot be operated while end-to-end encryption is applied .Sure Mr. Snowden had shown concern over Allo’s security and suggested to avoid it because similar messaging app like WhatsApp and iMessage is end-to-end encrypted by default so why compromise with security & switch to less secured one? The answer is-comparing WhatsApp with Allo is a pure stupidity, where WhatsApp is solely for messaging Allo has AI based tech like assistance integration which entirely feeds upon user data to give desired results. Let’s have a look at some of Allo’s feature to fully understand the concept why Google needs to feed upon user data.

Well already many messaging app has their root set in market so what does Google do to make people switch from their usual messaging app to Allo? It calls for something cool tech like Artificial intelligence to lure the users as it is most trending technology Google is head bent on mastering machine learning into its applications. Allo can do much beyond receiving & delivering messages it is associated with your phone number and runs on your android device. It can generate automated replies to the incoming text or picture which is just similar to the way you do, cool eh? So how do they do it? Simple it’s machine learning, Google AI gathers information through your chat understand context perform common sense reasoning & here you go it thinks just like you. The more you use Allo, smarter it gets. It also understand your conversation & provide suggestion like if you text-“I am hungry let’s catch some Chinese food” Google will automate a search & pop up Google cards suggesting nearby Chinese restaurant even you can book table through the app, hence Allo is not only a messaging app but it’s like a personal assistance too which can help you search nearby places to dine in, book tables, movie tickets search for things, yeah it can do the job of your browser too, you just got to ask @google “your question” and voila it’s like talking to a personal assistant. So how come is it all possible when you can’t share your conversation with Google & keep it secret with end-to-end encryption? But still if you think that your privacy is more important than trying out effective technologies like AI then Google has covered it up too, This is why incognito mode (yeah similar to chrome browser) is introduced you can switch to that & it’ll automatically apply end-to-end encryption & all your message get further encrypted using single protocol and auto-deleted which ensures only you and the recipient read the messages but mind you now you have to explicitly invoke Google AI to interact with so even with privacy everything is not lost

Here is another tweet by Edward Snowden which causes quite the stir

Let’s throw some light on this story. A co-leader on Google’s product security team Thai Doung blogged that he would personally prefer end-to-end encryption by default then later deletes some of its content .In a discussion later Doung clears that the end-to-end encryption isn’t called by default because the main purpose of this app is to benefit users preferring to use AIlo AI assistance to process auto-reply based on the content so it won’t work calling end-to-end encryption by default. There were just minor updates to his post which he later explained by saying that-

"I erased a paragraph from this post because it's not cool to publicly discuss or to speculate the intent or future plans for the features of my employer's products, even if it's just my personal opinion."

So nowhere it directs that Google security expert hinted Allo unsafe. Even Edward Snowden makes some adjustment in his posts that doesn’t mean they were caught doing a crime. Critics are stressing more about privacy against NSA and other creepy government agencies but what normal people want is just the physical privacy of their devices like it won’t get into the hands of their kids, spouse or strangers not NSA and AI agent well they might worried about privacy against NSA also if only they knew what they are up to then again we have incognito for that, just a single click is needed to move out from normal to incognito mode which won’t be a harassment for any users I think then how come Allo is unsafe and dangerous? Even while in normal mode an Artificial intelligence run by google (not any human or any google employee) can read your message analyze it through machine learning, understands what do you want & then gives timely and useful outcome.

So all I can conclude is that Allo is a smart approach towards Artificial intelligence to make messaging much easier and fun. It is packed with useful features to enhance user experience and there is absolutely nothing to worry about its security concerns as it as safe and sound as any other existing messaging apps as well as choice is all yours whether to go end-to-end encrypted or to enjoy AI tech.

#tech #chatapp #apps #whatsapp #imessage