Google Accused of Showing ‘Total Contempt’ for Android Users’ Privacy

Joe Westby is Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights researcher. Recently, in response to Google’s launch of a new messaging service called “Chat”, Westby argued that Google, “shows total contempt for Android users’ privacy.”

“With its baffling decision to launch a messaging service without end-to-end encryption, Google has shown utter contempt for the privacy of Android users and handed a precious gift to cybercriminals and government spies alike, allowing them easy access to the content of Android users’ communications. Following the revelations by CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden, end-to-end encryption has become recognized as an essential safeguard for protecting people’s privacy when using messaging apps. With this new Chat service, Google shows a staggering failure to respect the human rights of its customers,” Westby contended.

Westby continued, saying: “In the wake of the recent Facebook data scandal, Google’s decision is not only dangerous but also out of step with current attitudes to data privacy.”

Amnesty International regards end-to-end encryption as the minimum specification for technology companies in assuring that private information in messaging apps remains private. Encrypted messengers, for example, have become a critical component of various protests and uprisings around the world. But, a Google spokesperson confirmed the new chat service will not use end-to-end encryption. Google has also paused investment in its other messaging app, Allo.

Android Auto raises privacy concerns

Google’s new messaging app isn’t the only Google product that has raised concerns about privacy, recently. Android Auto, an app that allows users to mirror apps from Android smartphones onto a car’s entertainment and information screen in the dashboard, is said to be collecting too much user information. The information obtained includes vehicle speed, coolant and oil temperature, throttle position, engine temperature and engine revs. This information is then reportedly sent from Android Auto to Google on a real time basis. Android Auto is now a component of Google Assistant.

Car maker, Toyota, has said it would not be utilizing Android Auto in their cars due to these privacy concerns: “We’re a conservative company and we wanted to make sure everything was okay. We wanted to protect our customers privacy. We strongly believe in our stance and in what we’re doing.”

Google’s privacy policy can be found here and users of Google products and services can choose their privacy settings here.

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