San Francisco, March 15: In yet another disturbing news for online privacy advocates, a media report has claimed that Google’s mobile messaging app Allo can reveal your search history to friends and those you message. Allo lets users include Google Assistant in conversations. Google recently announced plans to make Assistant available on Android phones. Also Read - Zee News And WION Now on The Google Assistant
According to a Recode report late on Tuesday, Allo “has been found to be capable of “sharing users’ past Google searches with contacts, without being prompted to”. Described as a technical glitch, the report claimed that this Allo’s behaviour could have big privacy implications. The discovery was made by Recode’s Tess Townsend who was using Allo to chat to a friend. Also Read - Watch | Anand Mahindra Says Google's Super Bowl Commercial Made Him Cry, You Will Too!
“In the middle of our conversation, my friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth book in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series,” he wrote. Also Read - Lenovo launches Smart Display, Smart Bulb and Smart Camera in India: Price, features
“But the response was not merely a non sequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier, Townsend further wrote. “It didn’t come from any of my search history, since I had not viewed any Harry Potter-related websites in the days before our conversation. We also did not mention Harry Potter in our text exchange until Assistant brought it up,” the report added.
In a response, Google said: “We were notified about the Assistant in group chats not working as intended. We’ve fixed the issue and appreciate the report.” Allo has recently been criticised by privacy advocates because it does not use end-to-end encryption by default as WhatsApp does. According to a report in The Independent, Google Assistant is supposed to request permission from a user before sharing personal information in an Allo chat, but the privacy feature doesn’t appear to always work.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden had issued a warning about Allo after its launch. “What is #Allo?” he tweeted. “A Google app that records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request.”