News: Google's Allo Seems to Leak Search & Location History in Chats

Google's Allo Seems to Leak Search & Location History in Chats

Google's Allo Seems to Leak Search & Location History in Chats

Google's personal messaging service Allo could reveal your search history and other private information to friends if the Google Assistant bot is called upon in chats, according to a story from Re/code.

Allo uses Google's AI Assistant to bring smart information into your chats with friends. You can use it to look up information while in a chat, like movie times or nearby restaurants, in context with your discussion. But there seem to be some major privacy leaks that result from this information sharing, as well.

Re/code Associate Editor Tess Townsend found that users may be sharing more than they bargained for if the bot enters a chat. According to Townsend's article, the issue caused some interesting results to appear in her chats:

My friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But the response was not merely a non sequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier.

But search history is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to personal revelations—the app even shared a saved location from Townsend's Google Maps unintentionally, according to the Re/code article:

When I asked "What is my job?" in my conversation with my friend, Assistant responded by sharing a Google Maps image showing the address at which I used to work—the address of a co-working space, not the publicly listed address of my previous employer. Google had the address on file because I had included it in my personal Google Maps settings. It did not ask my permission to share that.

According to Re/code, Allo's chat bot does have a safeguard against sharing your personal information, but Townsend's observation shows that it doesn't always play by the rules.

Google has yet to comment on the issue.

Cover photo via Google

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