Home / Government Surveillance / Snowden Issues Warning — Do Not Use Google’s Messaging App Under Any Circumstances

Snowden Issues Warning — Do Not Use Google’s Messaging App Under Any Circumstances

Unless you want law enforcement to be able to trawl all your communications, don’t — under any circumstances — use Google’s newest messaging app, Allo, Edward Snowden just warned.

“What is #Allo? A Google app that records every message you ever send and makes it available to police upon request,” the whistleblower advised in a tweet.

Google had earlier claimed it would include end-to-end encryption, “storing messages transiently and in non-identifiable form,” similar to its prospective primary competitor, WhatsApp. However, the company announced drastic anti-privacy changes on Wednesday — the very day it rolled out the app.

When users remember to begin a conversation in “Incognito Mode,” as can be done for Google searches, their conversations won’t be stored indefinitely, as it still provides end-to-end encryption. But conversations not expressly begun that way will be stored forever, where they would be available for any law enforcement body requesting the information.

As Snowden pointed out, anyone thinking it would be difficult for police or, say, the Department of Homeland Security, or National Security Agency to get their hands on these communications should think otherwise.

In 2015, the Guardian reported this April, the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) — the secret court ostensibly overseeing domestic spying, which rules on the validity of requests by the FBI and other agencies to gain access to people’s data — did not turn down a single request of nearly 1,500.

“The court received 1,457 requests last year on behalf of the National Security Agency and FBI for authority to intercept communications, including email and phone calls, according to a Justice Department memo […] The court did not reject any of the applications in whole or in part, the memo said,” according to the Guardian.

Included with Allo, users receive an extra helping of Big Brother — features like “Smart Reply” and “Google Assistant.” While the latter “answers questions and helps you search for things directly in your chat,” as RT reports, the former employs artificial intelligence in order to predict answers to make responding as simple as pressing a button.

However, therein lies part of the privacy concern — that convenience comes with an asterisk in bold.

“How does Allo plan on predicting your every word and witty emoji, you ask? ‘The more you use it, the more it improves over time,’ which basically means they’ll collect and store as much of your data as possible and then use artificial intelligence to guess your replies,” Zero Hedge writes.

As The Verge reported last week, Google opted to forego (our already ever-dwindling) privacy in favor of improving the Smart Reply feature, since artificial intelligence perform better when it has more data at its disposal.

And that, of course, is key to Snowden’s and privacy advocates’ concerns. The more data Google collects, the more would be available to the increasingly erratic and paranoid government that would otherwise have you believe you have nothing to worry about if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Just because you aren’t engaged in criminal activity or planning a terrorist attack doesn’t mean the government wouldn’t love to know everything about you. Environmental activists, for one of many examples, are considered in the State’s notoriously-inclusive watchlists to be as dangerous as radicals fighting for the Islamic State.

Even those who don’t consider themselves politically or otherwise active might want to consider whose eyes are peering into their lives. It’s doubtful anyone would invite a Google techie or a cop to physically sit and watch everything they do — but if you plan to use Allo, in essence, that’s precisely what you’re doing.

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  • Hugh Culliton

    The only safe way to proceed is to assume that everything you say on, through, or near any computerized device is being recorded. Orwell was pre-chip, so we should cut him some slack for only having TVs that don’t turn off. We now have “The Internet Of Things” to monitor us and harvest our personal and meta-data 27/7. Given the growing sophistication of logarithms, I imagine that both Google and the NSA can accurately predict when my next bowel movement will be (being 46 – that’s not as impressive as it sounds).

  • Bob Btme

    don’t forget ex-girlfriends! LEO’s love to torment ex-gf’s with these abilities.

  • MC Wong

    I’m not a terrorists or work in any govt agencies, nor do I plan to rob fort Knox in the coming weeks. Why do I need to bother with the govt checking my dinner dates or cooking recipes? I’m asking the 99% of users. Don’t use allo if you need to communicate confidential info else is OK.

    • Lex McChamp

      That’s my point. People are paranoid and need to wake up to reality.

      • Carrie

        Yeah, see the problem is that it is not YOU who decides whether or not you have something to hide. “Wake up.”

        • SoonerRed

          Bingo… Reading this article could get you on a “watch list”. In a free America, one still governed by the Constitution, there wouldn’t even BE any “watch lists”.

        • J.D. Fronius

          Wake Up, 2nd that

    • SoonerRed

      My point would be, what if NSA/CIA/FBI et al decide that your dinner date is with a potential terrorist (read: someone who disagrees with some aspect of US foreign policy, for instance)? What if that person comes to the top of a White House target list and they decide a drone strike is in order? What if it’s just not any of their damn business what we search/read/write online?

      • J.D. Fronius

        Great argument. Fantastic

      • talon1812

        You know the old adage, ignorance is bliss. Some people are just blissfully ignorant.
        Why should I care if the government surveils my every move and word?
        What I always say, if people had any sense, they would take it out and play with it.

  • Toleas Gerakis

    Guys i have a question…and its completely out of subject but forgive me..
    Im looking for an android app of a blog/page like THIS..made by free thinkers for free thinkers..

  • Lex McChamp

    1457 out of 350,000,000 people. And these people are people who commit crimes, are terrorists or etc. And police can’t just see your messages, they have to get judge to approve and to get a judge to aprove it without some hard evidence is not going to happen. So stop being paranoid people. Also if you’re that paranoid use the incognito mode for gods sake. And Snowden can killd himself and no one will even care. 1457 people under suspicion of criminal activity out of 350,000,000. You have a better chance at winning the Lottery than being a criminal under police surveillance.

    • Wow haven’t you heard of canary warrants? They are real. So is the fact that all our so called private info isn’t private. Unless you take measures to make it so. And I’m not paranoid because i have no reason to be. Matter of fact i use Google now and allo because they are convenient. But if there are private things i want to search for you best your ass I’m using startpage. It’s a well known fact Google reads all your emails and scans for things for the govt, they are under a lawsuit right now from users who DON’T have a gmail but their emails are being read because they’ve sent emails to people who do! Yahoo mail just started as well.

    • SoonerRed

      So you accept the premise that the federal “law enforcement” team is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ACCURATE in selecting “targets”? Really? The part that would be funny under other circumstances is that you seem to believe that it’s hard to get approval, yet the very fact that there were ZERO denials flies in the face of that. You really ought to proof read your posts… and not just for grammar and spelling… 1457 people whose lives could be ruined, or worse, because a rubber-stamp “court” approved. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

    • Anthony Benson

      You miss the point. Read the 4th Amendment.

  • Russ Vanover

    http://crypto.cat Works great without the big boyz snooping

  • I’ve not seen the Allo app, but I’ve seen Duo (Google’s answer to Skype/Facebook Messenger). Does this apply to the Duo app as well?

    • SoonerRed

      I would advise avoiding “google” anything… ‘

  • Peter Hicks

    lot of people taking the piss and using words like paranoid fact is ex pm gave a clue with an expression he used [ the internet of things ] my computer with its win 10 radios picked up my tv, phone day 1 my phone checked my settings under radios and it uses words like intentional or not proximity , the good thing about tech is it moves on so if you have the need to talk to someone across the other side of the world you just old tech like a sw burst transmitter , if you in town use old am cb,s because they are looking for digital comms .

    Modern vehicles have built in intergrated comms systems any call /text /fax/ email / or comms app can be accessed along with your GPS information destination timeline ect , at the scene of an accident a police officer was seen plugging an interface in the cars comms port when asked what he was doing he replied there may be something in there that could help the hospital , computers have a lots of hidden features most people have no clue about ,
    1970s bt as then sold Tehran as is a complete comms system it could track any and record any call that was made on the system from anyware right down to street phones after that system was put in a lot of people either died or just disapeared that was the 70s how far do you think they come from those days ,

    Take the battery out of your phone at Heathrow and security will ask you put the battery back in and press the on switch so they can see it opperates as a phone ,what they dont tell you is switch it on and a scanner logs the packs ,macs ,imei ,make ,madel plus serial number that puts that phone with you at that time and place ,if that phone is given to someone who does something they have an interest in you get the knock on the door ,

    well if your a nothing from nowhere you got no worries all the isp,s sell you and your information every day if the government want to listen to calls look at your mail texts they will the word privacy is joke in this day and age because you dont have any !

  • Mark E Lowe

    let them see how i feel. saves me from writing a letter to my congressman . if trump would legalize marijuana , i’d build a statue in his honor . go against it and gain many an enemy in your own ranks.

    • friend-thru-the-storm

      haha, i like what you say, i.e. “let them see how i feel. saves me from writing a letter to my congressman .” end quote. Is exactly how i look at it too. It saves me the cost of ink & paper & a postage stamp. Just have a good old vent fest, & it’ll get to tptb much quicker & b probably read with more interest than if the postie delivers it to their letter-box. Does anyone know how police (and probably military) aircraft fit into this kind of snooping? As for years now (about 8-9yrs) many times i go onto the internet,check emails on my pc. Or put battery into my cell-phone and there’s one of the police airplanes (permanently air -born in our skies,patrolling. Goodness knows how much it’s costing the taxpayers, &seems no worries here about the pollution & carbon footprints)rushing to my vicinity. Have tested it many times, and it happens (arrange to go out & be somewhere & surprise, surprise, there’s a plane up there snooping.Am not a terrorist and as far as i’m aware i’m not committing any crime. I am though, curious, research the internet for political truths & have been a bit mouthy in the past (campaign work etc.. but nothing drastic) But just wondered if anyone else has had same experience, are they able to grb our texts, emails above our heads? i can’t imagine why they’d be interested in a nobody like me, Maybe they’re on exercises & use some of us as target practice, or just get bored cruising around us there. I did a bit looking into how cell phones work, to do with the cell-towers, i read something to do with triangulation, so maybe that’s what they’re practicing or it’s just just plain old simple bulliying.If no one knows about this, then hopefully my message is a warning & for folks to be observant about such things.,Does aircraft appear above your head whenever you make a call, send or receive a txt???

  • samuelstorns

    Just put the friggin chips in us already and get it over with. The scifi movies showing us the future where everyone is tracked will be reality.

  • J.D. Fronius

    Should go without saying; use everything with caution & be careful of what you use. I hope it is being made perfectly clear however to the consumer of the intent behind its creation. If not, now there is potential & reason for conflict. I think it is sad we do this “stuff.”

  • Chris Hatch

    This is true with ANY messaging app that stores messages on a server, not just anything put out by Google. So the real question here is, just what does Snowden have against Google that he points out Google in particular and deem that you should NEVER use it, and at the same time not mention that there is the same danger in other such apps? Does he have stock in a competing company, by any chance, or have some sort of “beef” with Google in particular?