When it launches this summer, Allo will offer an incognito mode that switches on an end-to-end encryption system known as Signal, designed by the privacy-focused non-profit Open Whisper Systems.
And in the wake of Apple s landmark fight with the FBI over the encrypted iPhone of San Bernadino killer Syed Rizwan Farook, the move represents another step in Silicon Valley s shift toward user-controlled encryption in defiance of law enforcement.
Allo s incognito mode represents a far more limited approach to encryption than Whatsapp s, Apple s, Viber s, or even what it s offering with Duo: Unlike with those apps, you must purposefully turn on incognito mode to send encrypted Allo messages; the app doesn t hide all messages by default.
But Google s launching its encrypted communication apps as new tools that may or may not catch on, rather than Whatsapp s far bolder move to turn on encryption for its existing, massive userbase.
Gmail and Google Hangouts, meanwhile, still lack end-to-end encryption, leaving them open to government surveillance orders.
Allo and Duo s new security features, in other words, are Google s baby steps towards a fully-encrypted future, not the sort of bold moves to elevate privacy above profit or politics that some of its competitors have already taken.