Google adds support for end-to-end encryption for group chats in Messages
Google has announced that it is rolling out end-to-encryption for group chats in its Messages app. The feature will be available for users who have enabled Rich Text Communication Services (RCS).
Google Messages rolls out end-to-end encryption for group chats
RCS has been around since 2007, though it really only kicked off a few years ago when mobile carriers started supporting it. Unlike SMS (and MMS) which are sent through your mobile carrier's network and bill you for it, RCS also works over Wi-Fi, so it can be used for free providing you have access to a network. You will still need a phone number to communicate using RCS. The key advantages that RCS offers over the other protocols are that it supports modern features like typing indicator, read receipts, rich text support, emojis, share high resolution photos and videos, etc.
RCS also supports better security options, including end-to-end encryption for messages. The feature was introduced last year, but until now it only worked for personal chats. Google is now expanding this feature, by adding support for E2E in group chats. End-to-end encryption is rolling out for group chats to some users in the open beta program. If you haven't participated in the beta test yet, you can sign up for it on the app's Google Play Store page.
The search giant says that E2E for group chats will be available for more users in the coming weeks. Google's Messages app, which is the default SMS app on Android devices, is also gaining another improvement. It will soon allow users to react to RCS messages with emojis.
Green versus blue bubbles
Google also took a swipe at Apple regarding the green versus blue bubbles conundrum. The issue got its name because of the background color used in the Messages app for iOS. When you use your iPhone to text someone who also uses an iPhone, the chat bubble has a blue background. If the recipient has an Android phone, the app indicates this with a Green background color for the bubble.
Let's talk a bit about why iMessage has been a problem. While most users around the world rely on WhatsApp, Telegram and other instant messaging services, the majority of people in the U.S. and some parts of Europe prefer texting. This is mostly because SMS is usually free for their monthly plans, while mobile data costs more.
The default messaging app on an iPhone is the Messages app, which is used for both SMS and iMessage. The latter supports end-to-end encryption, rich text formatting, the ability to share large files, etc., iOS, iPadOS, macOS and watchOS. So, what's the problem with this? iMessage is limited to Apple's devices, which means your conversations, aka text messages from your iPhone, iPad or Mac, to someone with an Android phone relies on the SMS protocol, and MMS for images and videos. As a result of this, your messages are not end-to-end encrypted. This video by MKBHD explores the issue in more detail.
It's kind of silly when you think about it, but this sort of platform exclusivity poses a serious security risk for users. This is also one of the reasons why Signal decided to ditch SMS support from its app, because those messages are not secure.
About a month ago, a Twitter user shared some screenshots of emails exchanged between Apple executives regarding the possibility of bringing iMessage to Android devices in 2013. Well, we know how that turned out. Apple could adopt RCS, but it has stubbornly refused to do so, which in turn puts its users' security at risk. Google criticized Apple by saying iPhone users'texting is stuck in the 1990s. I'd say that criticism is right on the money.Advertisement