Here’s Why Privacy Savants Are Blasting Google Allo
A version of this post titled “You say Goog-bye. I say Allo.” originally appeared in the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter.
Google launched an end-to-end encrypted messaging app at its I/O developer conference this week—hooray! Right?
Not quite. The search giant isn’t just late to the cryptoparty, it also forgot to bring the refreshments. Apple’s (AAPL) iMessage, Facebook’s (FB) WhatsApp, Signal, and Wickr all beat Google to the punch with their secure chat apps. And unlike these others, Google (GOOG) added its “incognito” mode only as an opt-in feature, rather than as a default setting. That decision has raised the hackles of privacy advocates.
To make matters worse, one of the engineers who helped design Allo’s security wrote in a blog post that he wished the end-to-end encryption feature were always on. “I’m pushing for a setting where users can opt out of cleartext messaging,” he said. Soon after, the coder’s comments disappeared.
Dan Goodin at Ars Technica has a great side-by-side analysis of the alterations made to the engineer’s essay post-publication. You can see how the text changed—presumably after these musings came to an employer’s attention. For critics who interpreted Google’s app privacy choices as an endorsement of surveillance, the revisions only served to strengthen their argument. (Guess who’s reading your blog?)
Perhaps Google’s artificially intelligent chat bot—the main selling point of Allo—made some helpful suggestions to the conversation, like “Hey, let me delete that for you.”
For more on Google, watch:
By the way, Fortune released its list of the 25 most important private companies this week. Tanium, an IT systems management firm last valued at more than $3 billion, snuck onto it at number 24 between Dell (no. 23) and SpaceX (no. 25). We dubbed it ” the Usain Bolt of cybersecurity.” Note that the nickname derives from Tanium’s fleet-footed network-probing tech, rather than its achievement of a warp speed valuation. Remember, dear readers, business is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself. More news here.