Google Allo Glitch Can Reveal What You’ve Searched


A screenshot of the conversation. Source: Recode

Google Allo is a mobile messaging app that also includes the company’s virtual assistant, Google Assistant. During a chat, users can ask the Google Assistant for help in searching for a restaurant or in looking up movie times. However, Tess Townsend of Recode reports that it might not always pull up the correct information. Instead, it could use the context of previous searches to provide an answer.

Townsend was testing the Allo app with a friend when he asked Google Assistant to identify itself. But, the software didn’t understand the question. Instead, it pulled up a link from a Harry Potter fan website that was from her friend’s recent search, which included the word “identify.” This glitch could have serious privacy implications for Allo and Google Assistant users. Sure, this time it was just a Harry Potter website, but what if it had revealed something more personal, like a medical-related query?

Google responded to the story saying, “We were notified about the Assistant in group chats not working as intended. We’ve fixed the issue and appreciate the report.” This swift response shows that this was indeed a glitch. It also shows that there is a fine line between a virtual assistant being helpful and being a little too helpful, risking a user’s privacy as a result.