Google tests E2E encryption in Messages after rolling out RCS globally
Google has announced plans to launch end-to-end encryption in its Messages app for Android. The news comes on the back of the completion of the global rollout of its RCS-based chat features after the company decided last year to roll out access to the service itself, rather than waiting for telcos to enable it.
Rich Communication Services (RCS) brings the aged SMS standard into the instant-chat age, offering group chats, emojis, and higher quality photo and video sharing. It also brings online status, typing, and read indicators. The slow pace of global availability of the standard has led most people to switch to services like WhatsApp and Messenger. Last year, Google announced that it would start offering its own RCS servers, beginning with the UK and France, thus bypassing carriers who were showing no sign of enabling it. Following launches in several other countries, that process has now completed and Chat features via Google are now available worldwide. The result is a service more akin to iMessage on Apple devices, and with more scope to be integrated with other messenger standards.
As part of the announcement, Google has confirmed that Messages will soon support end-to-end encryption (E2E) – one of the most attractive features of other chat packages – beginning with one-to-one conversations using RCS in Google Messages. Google confirms that means that “no one, including Google and third parties” will be able to see what either party has said at any point. Even if the message is intercepted by hackers, it’ll be unreadable. Google will begin rolling out E2E to beta testers beginning this month, and into early 2021. When it becomes available, any conversations that meet the criteria will be automatically upgraded to E2E. By eligible, we mean that both parties will have to be using Messages, with Chat Features switched on.
Despite being used by thousands of companies for two-factor authentication, the SMS standard is now almost 30 years old and increasingly insecure. The arrival of RCS and E2E will hopefully bring text messaging back to life for another 30 years. Google Chat, which is due to replace Hangouts next year also works using RCS, which might signal that one day, Google will actually have a coherent messaging strategy and bring everything together.