Encryption has become a touchy subject in recent times, with a series of events – most notably, the San Bernardino shooting and the subsequent controversy surrounding the alleged shooter's iPhone 5c - demonstrating how watertight encryption can sometimes work against public safety when used by criminals and terrorists. While governments around the world have always been skeptical of end-to-end encryption, many hardware manufacturers, software developers and service providers have started incorporating cutting-edge security and privacy features to assure users of confidentiality and give them their much-needed peace-of-mind that no individual or organization would be able to compromise their privacy no matter how hard they tried.
Popular mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp and Viber have already implemented end-to-end encryption, meaning, nobody apart from the sender and the intended receiver will be able to decipher any of the messages exchanged between two parties over the platform, even if the system becomes compromised. With end-to-end encryption becoming increasingly popular, Google’s decision to leave the feature ‘off’ by default in its brand new messaging app, Allo, has come in for quite a bit of criticism online. However, as it turns out, it’s not just regular Joes and anonymous privacy experts who’re upset with Google for not switching on the encryption by default for all users.
One man whose thoughts on electronic security and online privacy carries quite a lot of weight, has now joined the growing number of people in taking Google to task on the issue. Mr. Edward Snowden tweeted earlier today, asking users to stay away from Allo for the time being. The small but powerful message from Mr. Snowden read: “Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe. Avoid it for now”. Of course, an AI-enabled app like Allo needs to collect data in order to be able to form suggestions, so leaving encryption on by default would mean that Google would miss out on a lot of valuable info that would otherwise be a goldmine for the search giant to base its chatbot’s suggestions on. It remains to be seen what percentage of Allo’s target audience would be security conscious enough to align with Mr. Snowden and how many would just not care.