Google Messages has begun testing end-to-end encryption for RCS group text messages
Google has begun testing end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in Android Messages for RCS group conversations. Some users registered in the Messages open beta programme will get access to the feature in the coming weeks, ahead of a wider deployment. During their I/O 2022 developer conference, Google said that an E2EE beta for group chats will be ready by the end of the year.
The change comes 18 months after Google Messages began delivering E2EE for one-on-one discussions to keep conversations private from prying eyes. It began testing E2EE in Messages in November 2020, thus the privacy feature may not be available for all group conversations for some months.
Over the past several years, many carriers and phone manufacturers have joined up with RCS to provide capabilities such as high-quality images and videos, read receipts, and E2EE. None of these are supported by the SMS format, which is almost 30 years old. Still, there’s one business that continues to reject RCS: Apple, which prefers to keep safe behind the confines of iMessage.
Google has openly urged Apple to embrace RCS, but thus far those efforts have been futile. Apple CEO Tim Cook joked in September that iOS customers who are having problems transmitting films to a loved one using an Android smartphone can simply buy them an iPhone.
Nonetheless, Google has been working to enhance iOS and Android messaging compatibility, and in a blog post, it made another effort to get Apple on board with RCS. “Today, all of the major cell carriers and manufacturers — except Apple — have accepted RCS as the standard,” Messages group product manager Neena Budhiraja wrote. “Apple refuses to implement RCS and continues to depend on SMS when iPhone users contact Android phone users, implying that their messaging is stuck in the 1990s.”