In an ongoing limbo between privacy and interactivity, Google says it's Allo app will now feature optional end-to-end encryption.
The tech company is to offer a darker incognito-mode style window within which the user will be able to chat in private.
The reason it isn't turned on by default is that for Google to read your chats and offer your suggestions where to go for dinner, for example, it needs to be able to read the conversation.
Those who do turn on encryption in Allo will be using a highly regarded security protocol developed by Open Whisper Systems named Signal Protocol. The Signal Protocol also forms the backbone of WhatsApp's and Signal's encrypted messaging. Google partnered with the company in order to offer this technology.
— Christopher Soghoian (@csoghoian) May 18, 2016
Making encryption opt-in was a decision made by the business and legal teams. It enables Google to mine chats and not piss off governments.
As the ACLU's Christopher Soghoian points out above, government agencies are probably a bit happier with messages being encrypted by choice rather than by default.
Law enforcement agencies have complained that default encryption means they lose access to important communications they need to listen in to, to secure criminal convictions.
Jacob Ginsberg, senior director at Echoworx told SCMagazineUK.com: “It's great that we're seeing some of the world's leading technology companies wise up to user demand for private communications. Whatsapp, Viber and now Google have been instrumental in ‘consumerising' encryption to educate the public about the improper attempts from law enforcement to weaken the technology and snoop on our conversations in the interest of national security.”
Ginsberg went on to explain: “Compromising the privacy and security of millions of innocent civilians as a result of a malicious minority is the wrong approach. The technology industry knows this, and increasingly so too do its customer base, so I would expect demand for strong encryption among consumers using other messaging services to increase throughout this year and beyond.”
The company has been criticised for having far too many chat apps. But many have welcomed the app for offering Snapchat-style timed messages.The chat app was announced earlier in the year at Google's I/O Conference, alongside its video counterpart Duo.