Google Messages gets end-to-end encryption for group chats on Android

Google Messages gets end-to-end encryption for group chats on Android

Group text chats among Android users are getting a little more secure — provided everyone in the chat is using a beta version of Google’s messaging app.

Google announced today that it is rolling out end-to-end encryption for group chats as part of a blog post(Opens in a new window) marks the 30th anniversary of the first text message received on a phone via a mobile network.

Using encryption right now requires a beta version of Google’s Messages app, and not everyone will be able to access it immediately. Google’s post says this feature “will be available to some users in the open beta program in the coming weeks.” To check if you have access, just register to be a tester(Opens in a new window) to unlock the beta version of Messages.

Google has spent much of the last five years struggling to replace SMS with RCS, short for “Rich Communications Services”. This wireless industry-backed standard adds interactive features like read receipts, typing indicators and tapback emoji, as well as message encryption—the same basic features Apple offers in iMessage, just not locked to iPhones.

But while RCS securing messages in transit represents a massive upgrade over SMS that sends your texts in the clear, RCS has until today limited end-to-end encryption to one-to-one chats. Unfortunately, since Apple won’t send iMessage for Android, doesn’t support RCS in the Messages app, and doesn’t allow Google to send an iOS version of its own Messages app, texts between iPhone and Android users are relegated to the lowest-common-denominator SMS .

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That means no encryption for these chats, and even after clever hacks by Google to support tapback emoji, there’s little of the interactivity that RCS and iMessage allow. Google’s post takes the opportunity to renew its #GetTheMessage plea to Apple, saying “Apple refuses to adopt RCS and continues to rely on SMS when people with iPhones send messages to people with Android phones, meaning their text messages sit stuck in the 1990s.”

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However, the blog post fails to note that Google has yet to deliver RCS support to its own Google Voice app, or provide the coding framework required by third-party private messaging apps like Signal to add RCS support. That leaves these third-party encrypted messaging apps as your only options for secure phone-based messaging between iPhone and Android users.

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