Google’s creepy Allo assistant and our rocky relationship so far

where-do-you-live

After playing with Allo’s chat prompts for those too lazy to write their own texts, I began to play with the in-conversation Google Assistant bot. Here are the highlights:

1. You can use the assistant without giving it permission

Whereas other chat apps like Telegram and Facebook Messenger make it possible to interact with bots, Google is making bots central to Allo. Specifically, the Google Assistant.

When you first open the app you are introduced to the assistant. It wants to help, it says, but it will only do so if you agree to give it a whole bunch of creepy permissions. Until you give it those, it will not answer any questions directly.

I need certain permissions to help you. To get started click continue
But you can use the assistant without giving it those permissions. You just need to type ‘Google’ within a chat conversation with someone else, followed by what you want to do or know. It’s basically like talking to a friend, but with an over-eager colleague always listening in and trying to help.

2. But what it knows is creepy even when you leave permissions turned off

Map of N1 London

This isn’t actually where I was. Because I was using a coffee chain’s wifi hotspot the IP address placed me 120 miles south

3. It uses your IP address to work out your location

why-do-you-want-to-know-where-i-am

4. …But it’s more coy about its own location

where-do-you-live

5. It doesn’t know your name. Yet.

what-is-your-name

what-is-my-name

6. It doesn’t listen to you all the time

how-old-am-i

i-dont-know-how-old-your-are

7. It’s happy to share your data with the authorities, but won’t share it with your friends

show-me-my-photos

show-me-my-emails

8. It’s only storing your data to make services better. Honest.

what-will-you-do-with-my-data

9. But it knows what ‘spying’ is

are-you-spying-on-me

10. Allo thinks it’s creative

a-team-at-google-made-me

11. It is trying a little too hard to be your friend

yeah-oh-assistant

if-you-were-a-person

12. Google Assistant knows enough context to give you relevant news

whats-in-news-about-may

13. It can add games, jokes, poems, translation and other elements to chats

what-can-i-do-with-allo

14. Google doesn’t know what Bing is

bing-search

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6 thoughts on “Google’s creepy Allo assistant and our rocky relationship so far

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