Russell Brandom, reporting for The Verge:
The version of Allo rolling out today will store all non-incognito
messages by default — a clear change from Google’s earlier
statements that the app would only store messages transiently and
in non-identifiable form. The records will now persist until the
user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full
history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the
logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which is still fully
end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement.
It would have been more surprising if Google had actually followed through on their promise for Allo message retention. And I still say “Incognito” is the wrong word. They should call it “Private”. Incognito carries a “What do you have to hide?” connotation. (I know Chrome uses the same word for private tabs, but I’d argue the same thing there — they should be called “private tabs”, like Safari does.)
Google wants to read and index your chats. It’s that simple.
According to Google, the change was made to improve the Allo
assistant’s smart reply feature, which generates suggested
responses to a given conversation. Like most machine learning
systems, the smart replies work better with more data. As the Allo
team tested those replies, they decided the performance boost from
permanently stored messages was worth giving up privacy benefits
of transient storage.
That’s a fair tradeoff, but it also shows very clearly who is in control at Google when it comes to features/advertising potential vs. user privacy debates. When has such a decision at Google ever erred on the side of privacy?
★ Wednesday, 21 September 2016