Google enables end-to-end encryption for Android’s default SMS/RCS app

Enlarge / In case you and your chatting companion are each on Google Messages and each have RCS enabled, you will see these lock icons to indicate that encryption is on.


Google has introduced that end-to-end encryption is rolling out to customers of Google Messages, Android’s default SMS and RCS app. The characteristic has been in testing for months, and now it is coming to everybody.

Encryption in Google Messages works provided that each customers are on the service. Each customers should even be in a 1:1 chat (no group chats allowed), and so they each should have RCS turned on. RCS was speculated to be a substitute for SMS—an on-by-default, carrier-driven textual content messaging normal. RCS was cooked up in 2008, and it provides 2008-level options to service messaging, like consumer presence, typing standing, learn receipts, and site sharing.

Textual content messaging was a money cow for carriers, however with the arrival of limitless texting and the commoditization of service messaging, there is not any clear income motivation for carriers to launch RCS. The result’s that the RCS rollout has amounted to nothing however false guarantees and delays. The carriers nixed a three way partnership known as the “Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative” in April, just about killing any hopes that RCS will ever hit SMS-like ubiquity. Apple executives have also indicated internally that they view straightforward messaging with Android as a menace to iOS ecosystem lock-in, so it could take a major change of coronary heart for Apple to assist RCS.

The result’s that Google is the most important participant that cares about RCS, and in 2019, the corporate began pushing its own carrier-independent RCS system. Customers can dig into the Google Messages app settings and activate “Chat options,” which refers to Google’s model of RCS. It really works if each customers have turned on the checkbox, however once more, the unique aim of a ubiquitous SMS substitute appears to have been misplaced. This makes Google RCS a bit like every other over-the-top messaging service—however tied to the sluggish and out-of-date RCS protocol. For example, end-to-end encryption is not a part of the RCS spec. Because it’s one thing Google is including on high of RCS and it is accomplished in software program, each customers should be on Google Messages. Different purchasers aren’t supported.

Google launched a whitepaper detailing the characteristic’s implementation, and there aren’t too many surprises. The corporate makes use of the Signal protocol for encryption, identical to Sign, Whatsapp, and Fb Messenger. The Google Messages web app works positive because it nonetheless depends on an (encrypted) native connection to your cellphone to ship messages. Encrypted messages on Put on OS should not supported but however will likely be in some unspecified time in the future (hopefully in time for that big revamp). Regardless that the message textual content is encrypted, third events can nonetheless see metadata like despatched and obtained cellphone numbers, timestamps, and approximate message sizes.

In case you and your messaging companion have all of the settings proper, you will see lock icons subsequent to the ship button and the “message despatched” standing.

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