Looks like all hope is not lost for Allo, Google’s new messaging app, getting end-to-end encryption by default. One of Google’s top security engineers, Thai Duong, has published a blog post suggesting that he’ll push to make end-to-end encryption the default in future versions of Allo.
Allo was announced at Google I/O, and while it does have an incognito mode, which has end-to-end encryption, the standard mode does not. Not only that, but the whole draw to Allo — the ability to interact with Google and bring Google into chats — is not available in incognito mode.
Interestingly enough, there are two paragraphs from the blog post that have actually been deleted since the post was first published. Those paragraphs, however, were picked up by TechCrunch.
“The burning question now is: if incognito mode with end-to-end encryption and disappearing messages is so useful, why isn’t it the default in Allo?
I wish it’s the default (because it’s my feature haha :), but even if it is not default all is not lost. I can’t promise anything now, but I’m pushing for a setting where users can opt out of cleartext messaging. Basically with one touch you can tell Allo that you want to “Always chat in incognito mode going forward,” and from that moment on all your messages will be end-to-end encrypted and auto-deleted. You can still interact with the AI, but only if you specifically invoke it, so you don’t have to give up everything for your privacy gain. This is the best of both worlds, until someone figures out how to do homomorphic machine learning.”
The change to the post probably does not mean that Duong doesn’t intend on lobbying to change Google, however Google often likes to stay quiet on future products, and it’s likely the company doesn’t want to leak information about updates.
Of course, Duong’s post does highlight something we already knew — enabling end-to-end encryption by default would have some pretty big implications for Allo’s Google Assistant features. The Assistant simply wouldn’t work if it wasn’t able to scan users’ messages and deliver what they need. Duong notes that while the artificially intelligent assistant can analyze messages in normal mode, no humans can.
Still, Duong does highlight that the post reflects his thoughts alone, not Google’s. Despite this, hopefully his vision for end-to-end encryption will eventually come to pass.