Yesterday, Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) launched its instant messaging mobile app, Google Allo, despite the unresolved security and privacy concerns. Two days ago, Famous leaker Evan Blass accurately disclosed on Twitter Google would unveil the new app.
The search giant announced Allo, alongside the video chat mobile app, Google Duo, at its Google I/O annual developer conference back in May with an expected summer release. Developed by Google, the Allo communication app will be available on Android and iOS.
Google Allo features a smart reply function, the controversial incognito mode, Whisper Shout, and supports Google Assistant, a conversational AI.
The Smart Reply feature uses Google’s machine learning technology to suggest a reply to the last message as demonstrated during Google’s I/O 2016. Meanwhile, Whisper Shout allows users to increase or decrease a message’s size to represent volume.
Google Hangouts include all of Allo’s features and more
However, a big question mark over instant messaging app Google Allo is why people would choose to use it along with video chat app Google Duo when Google Hangouts includes those two features plus Short Message Service (SMS) and Voice over IP (VOIP) features.
The app will be based on phone numbers like video chat sibling Google Duo and established rival WhatsApp. Allo will also have to face stiff competition from Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts.
However, Google’s biggest concern is the criticism Allo’s incognito mode received by security experts and privacy advocates following its release. End-to-end encryption is turned off by default, so they claimed Allo was open to government surveillance.
Google Allo labeled as dangerous and unsafe
Google Allo, which will come on Google’s upcoming Pixel smartphones, includes an Incognito mode with expiring chats, individual notifications, and the Signal Protocol end-to-end encryption system designed by the privacy-focused software group Open Whisper Systems.
However, the Incognito mode within the Google app is an optional feature, instead of being a default setting like in secure chat apps such as Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. In consequence, Allo’s privacy and security got heavily criticized.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed several global surveillance programs in 2013, said Google’s decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default is dangerous and thus makes Allo chats unsafe.
Google product security team co-leader Thai Duong quickly responded via a personal blog post in which he vowed to push for the default encryption setting. However, Duong later retracted his statement.