Google Allo Can Reportedly Leak Your Web Search Results to Friends via Google Assistant

17 Mar

By Anmol Sachdeva, The Tech Portal

Google Allo debuted as a quirky and fun consumer-focused mobile messaging app at Google I/O earlier last year. It has since bagged a slew of feature and improvement updates, but the hottest feature of the app still remains its Google Assistant integration. But, the said integration could leak your personal web searches to your friends in between a conversation, reports Recode.

This revelation came to light when Tess Townsend at Recode was conversing with one of her friends to test the messaging app. We are all aware of the fact that Google’s uber-smart Assistant can be called upon at any instant in the middle of the conversation. This voice-enabled assistant can be used to search results and share info with your friends. It can really come in handy when you are planning an outing/dinner and want to check up on the weather or book a table at a restaurant.

But, there’s another important capability of Google Assistant we should be aware of to make our case against the same. The Assistant is a conversational AI, which means it can try and hold a conversation with a human. It can turn back to previous queries to infer results for the current query — where it may sometimes provide an unrelated answer or inadvertently surface an earlier query.

The sharing of personal web search results in the conversation is most likely being caused due to a glitch with the Assistant. This glitch could seriously jeopardize the privacy of an individual if the Assistant surfaces an unrelated and previously searched result for a query. While the search result shared in the report was Harry Potter trivia but Google Allo could also share sensitive or personal information in conversations. And this could turn the conversation into a highly uncomfortable one for both the friends.

There is currently no word on why and how the Google Assistant is responding to certain queries the way it is, but we’ve reached out to Google to gather more information on the same. Also, this is unusual behavior for the Assistant. It tries to safeguard you from sharing personal info, such as your name or workplace, within Google Allo conversations. Then, why is the Assistant failing to protect us from sharing previous search results with friends, especially in a case where it has misinterpreted the query is beyond our understanding.

In addition, for those unaware, Google has recently decided to make the Assistant widely available across all Android devices running Marshmallow 6.0 and above. It has already started rolling out to supported devices and can be accessed using the center-placed home button itself. The Google Assistant had previously only been accessible through the tech giant’s own-brand Pixel lineup, Google Home, and the messaging app Google Allo.

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