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Google Gives Up on Allo, Backs Unencrypted Successor to SMS

Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:

Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it’s trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.” SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google’s goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

As part of that effort, Google says it’s “pausing” work on its most recent entry into the messaging space, Allo. It’s the sort of “pause” that involves transferring almost the entire team off the project and putting all its resources into another app, Android Messages. […]

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It’s just “Chat,” not “Google Chat.” In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier’s Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won’t be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won’t be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

It is unconscionable for Google to back a new protocol that isn’t end-to-end encrypted. End-to-end encryption is table stakes for any new communication platform today. Apple should ignore this — if it’s not secure it should be a non-starter.

Walt Mossberg:

Bottom line: Google builds an insecure messaging system controlled by carriers who are in bed with governments everywhere at exactly the time when world publics are more worried about data collection and theft than ever.

Friday, 20 April 2018