Google Enables End-to-End Encryption for RCS Group Chats

Group text chats between Android users should now have the same privacy as one-to-one conversations, courtesy of Google completing an upgrade to its RCS messaging service that extends end-to-end encryption to multiple-person chats. 

Google announced this Tuesday in a post in a support forum(Opens in a new window) that also reported that RCS–a Google-backed industry standard for upgraded text and multimedia messaging–is now enabled by default for all users of its Messages app for Android. 

That move followed Google shipping “E2E” encryption for group chats as a beta feature in December. Previously, only one-to-one RCS conversations came secured with encryption, leaving chats with more people only encrypted in transit to stop man-in-the-middle eavesdropping.

The SMS and MMS standards that RCS (short for “Rich Communications Services”(Opens in a new window)) is supposed to replace don’t offer any encryption at all. They also leave out such interactive conveniences as indicators when the other person has seen a message and has begun typing a reply.

But Google’s latest RCS moves don’t close the canyon of a gap between Android and iOS messaging, in which texts between each mobile platform’s messaging apps continue to drop to the least common (and least secure) denominators of SMS and MMS. 

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Although Apple’s iMessage also offers end-to-end encryption as well as its own set of interactive features and has done so since 2016, Apple has not extended that service to Android. And although Google has repeatedly implored Apple to support RCS in iMessage, Apple seems to have left those requests on read. It instead suggests iPhone users who want more secure messaging with their Android friends switch to encrypted alternatives like Meta’s WhatsApp

Google, however, also has yet to ship a programming framework that would let developers of such third-party messaging apps as WhatsApp or Signal add RCS support. And Google has yet to persuade Google to implement RCS in Google Voice, the calling and messaging service that it’s run since 2009 and has neglected for years at a stretch since.

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