WASHINGTON: It’s a big news that Google has made the announcement of a new messaging app with strong encryption by which your communications cannot be wiretapped. For that, you have to go for the feature.The tech titans have planned to launch Allo this summer without encryption by default; it’s drawn declining the criticism from some quarters.
Edward Snowden tweeted about Google’s decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default,“in its new #Allo chat app, is dangerous, makes it unsafe, and avoid it for now,” but other privacy advocates are more positive.
Director of New America’s Open Technology Institute, Kevin Bankston said, “I, too, would prefer that Allo be encrypted by default”. However, in addition, he said, “all in all, this is going to be a net increase in the amount of encrypted messaging out in the world. And that is ultimately a good thing.”
Google, with Allo’s debut, has planned to join the growing number of tech firms assimilating an end-to-end encryption that would protect the privacy of the text messages and voice and video calls in a manner that the government can’t reach them in spite having a warrant. Snowden criticizes that Google is lowering the possibility for average users to avail this features, allowing users to have the turn on the option.
WhatsApp, Facebook’s messaging app, last month announced its full end-to-end encryption by default, on different platforms like iPhone,BlackBerry, and Android. Apple has also launched its video call “FaceTime” feature some years ago, particularly with strong encryption by default. When it comes to serving this with a warrant, these firms will not be able to provide law enforcement access to iMessage and WhatsApp chats.
FBI Director James B. Comey has accepted the benefits of encryption , in his words, “I love strong encryption,” last month pointed in a speech. But, he further added, “what’s changed in the last few years is that it’s now become the default, covering wide swaths of our lives and covering wide swaths of law enforcement’s responsibilities.” He brought the attention toward balancing of privacy and public safety needs in which the firms usually maintain a way to get the government access to the communications it is searching. One law enforcement official said that Google’s step for balancing is convenience and welcoming;he also spoke on the situation of anonymity because they were not given the authority to speak about the issue. In addition, “Having this as an opt-in feature is certainly useful to us.”
A Google spokesman said that Google has designed Allo without default encryption for making it easier to inter-mingle the chat app with Google Assistant which would lead to a new conversation bot that can maintain natural-sounding discussions with users. To this, Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and many of the bots created for Facebook’s Messenger app will prove competitive. The Assistant is designed to tap into Google’s wealth of data regarding users for a provision of adaptive suggestions, to have access to the best movies up to the quickest link to the theater and much more.
While the official said that, as Google may need to run queries made of Assistant on its own servers, so, it’s not feasible to offer a default end-to-end encryption. Furthermore, all those users who urged to use the encrypted “Incognito” mode may be missing some Assistant features.
According to some tech experts,strong encryption with the artificial intelligence bot feature can easily be combined. While vice president of technology at the cyber security firm BeyondTrustMorey Haber said, “There’s always a way”. Smartphones, for example, could do some of the processing on the device. But, he said, it would be difficult to completely process the queries to Assistant without having the power of Google’s remote servers, the job of which is to see the unencrypted queries. In this regard, Haber added that he didn’t think the technology was there yet. However, the company’s decision to forgo default encryption has still raised so many questions inside the company.
A Google engineer openly criticized the inappropriate position of default encryption in a personal blog posted on Thursday. Thai Duong wrote, “If incognito mode with end-to-end encryption . . . is so useful, why isn’t it the default in Allo?”.He also said he would strive a setting where users can make a choice of clear-text unencrypted messaging. However, both lines were quietly removed from his post last evening. Duong further detailed that he erased a paragraph, in his words, “because it’s not cool to publicly discuss or to speculate the intent or future plans for the features of my employer’s products.” While Google declined to comment on pressurizing Duong for editing the text he posted. “he has given the FBI exactly what top officials have been asking for, “noted in response.