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Oops, Google Allo Could Reveal Your Search History

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The next time you use Google Allo, you might want to delete your search history.

Less than a year after it was launched, the Google Allo messaging app is beset with another problem, this time a glitch found in Allo's integrated Google Assistant. An Allo user was alarmed when the search history of the person she's talking to was revealed by Google Assistant. The user believed it was a glitch, which was promptly fixed by Google.

Google Allo, which rolled out in September 2016, has been criticized by privacy advocates because end-to-end encryption is not enabled by default. It is only available when users choose to chat in incognito mode.

Be Careful What You Ask For

One of Allo's features is the use of Google Assistant, the company's answer to Microsoft's Cortana, Apple's Siri, and Amazon's Alexa. While messaging with a friend, an Allo user can type "@google" and the Assistant will respond. For example, if you want recommendations for good restaurants, the Assistant can recommend good ones.

However, the results are not always helpful - they can be incriminating, as one user found out, as the results she got revealed a Google search history. In the middle of a conversation, the user's friend asked the Assistant to "identify itself." But instead of offering the usual witty answer, the Assistant pulled the friend's previous search history. Surprises of all surprises, Assistant answered a search result for a Harry Potter query.

Google promptly addressed the issue, saying it was notified of the glitch and has fixed it. The company earlier announced plans to make its Google Assistant available on Android devices with Marshmallow and Nougat updates. This feature was initially released to Google's own flagship phones, the Google Pixel, and to Google Home, the search engine company's answer to Amazon Echo.

Allo, Are The Lines Secure?

The glitch could be a cause for concern especially in the issues of privacy and internet security. During Allo's release in 2016, internet privacy advocates slammed it not only because end-to-end encryption isn't available by default, but also because it stored messages indefinitely - a reversal of Google's earlier statement about Allo being a step toward privacy.

However, the finished product did not deliver on the promise. Internet activist and whistleblower Edward Snowden even advised users not to use Allo because of the app's security vulnerabilities and privacy concerns, especially when it comes to surveillance by the state.

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