Tech by VICE

A Frustrating Conversation About Privacy With Google's New Allo Chatbot

What does Allo know about itself?

by Jason Koebler
Sep 21 2016, 4:25pm

With news that Google has backtracked on its promise to not log all conversations by default on its new chat app Allo, I decided to take its next-generation artificial intelligence for a spin. We've seen that the masses aren't willing to enable strong encryption settings that protect privacy; in order to be useful, they must be enabled by default.

So I wanted to chat with Allo's "Google Assistant" to see how upfront the assistant is with its users.

The "help center" pulled up the fact that Allo can use essentially anything stored on your phone or Google account. Allo does not give you the option to selectively use this data, so you can't, say, give it access to your calendar but not your emails.

Allo pulled up my email even though I didn't ask it to, and one of the first messages it finds shows that I am a member of the Writers Guild of America East, VICE's editorial union.