A screenshot of Allo, showing the "smart reply" feature
|Initial release||September 21, 2016|
|Operating system||Android, iOS|
Google Allo is an instant messaging mobile app developed by Google that includes a virtual assistant and provides a "smart reply" function that allows users to reply without typing. It was announced at Google I/O on May 18, 2016 and launched on September 21, 2016. The app is available on Android and iOS.
Allo was announced at Google I/O on May 18, 2016. At the time, Google said that it would release Allo in summer 2016. Google launched the app on September 21, 2016. It was mentioned during the #MadeByGoogle event in October 2016 that Allo will be pre-installed on Pixel phones, along with its sister app, Google Duo.
Allo's "Smart reply" function uses Google's machine learning technology to suggest a reply to the last message, which can be selected from a few options. The feature also analyses images sent to the user in order to suggest responses. Similar to the smart reply feature seen in Google's Inbox app, it learns from the user's behaviour to adapt its suggestions over time. Allo is one of the apps that support Google Assistant, a conversational virtual assistant.
Incognito mode does not include any Smart Reply or Google Assistant features. When the user receives a sticker from a sticker pack that they do not already have installed on their device, the app will retrieve the sticker from Google’s servers using client-to-server encryption.
Following Allo's introduction at Google I/O, Google was criticised by security experts and privacy advocates for having the end-to-end encryption turned off by default, which they argue leaves the app open to government surveillance. Edward Snowden, whistleblower and former NSA contractor, criticised the app on Twitter, saying that "Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new #Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe." Thai Duong, a co-lead of Google's product security team, wrote in a personal blog post that he would push for the addition of a setting that would let users have the encryption on all the time, but he later retracted the statement.
When Allo was first introduced, its developers talked about storing non-incognito messages only transiently — namely that the messages would be deleted from Google's servers after they had been delivered to their destination. At launch, Google revealed that they would instead store all non-incognito messages indefinitely (or until the user actively deleted them) in order to improve the built in "smart reply" feature. Russell Brandom of The Verge commented that "the decision will have significant consequences for law enforcement access to Allo messages. By default, Allo messages will now be accessible to lawful warrant requests, the same as message data in Gmail and Hangouts".
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