Google Allo Can Reveal Your Search History and Personal Info to Your Friends

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Mar 14, 2017
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Allo, Google’s messaging app, can reportedly reveal your Google search history to people you communicate with. What appears to be a glitch, Allo tends to reveal your search history and other personal information when you use Google Assistant in chat.

Google Allo can leak your search history

Recode reported the problem after Tess Townsend noticed the issue during a conversation with a friend. One of the popular features of Allo is its usage of Google Assistant. During a chat, for example, you can also ask the bot for helpful information about anything you are currently conversing about. However, turns out Google Assistant can also bring back your previous search history right in front of your friend.

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In the middle of our conversation, 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 the privacy implications don’t end here. Not only is Google Assistant bringing your private search data in front of your friends, it can also reveal your personal information retrieving data from apps like Google Maps.

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.

As Recode notes, Google Assistant is designed to check with you before sharing personal information during an Allo conversation. However, this safeguard appears to be inconsistent. While Allo did share Townsend’s work address, when Assistant was later asked “What is my name?”, the bot asked privately if it can share this information.

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Google said that it has now fixed the issue. “We were notified about the Assistant in group chats not working as intended. We’ve fixed the issue and appreciate the report,” it wrote in response to the Recode story.

As reported earlier, Google Assistant, which was exclusive to Pixel, is now rolling out to other Android devices too. Since other apps, including the new Hangouts Chat and Meet apps, now use Google’s treasured and witty Assistant, let’s hope the bot doesn’t mess up everywhere. You probably wouldn’t want your boss to know about your interview for a new potential job when you invoke @meet to schedule a company meeting.

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