google messages android rcs sms

Back in November, Google announced that it would start testing end-to-end encryption in Messages for Android. After being limited to the beta channel, E2EE is now rolling out to all stable users.

With end-to-end encryption enabled, Google or other third parties cannot read the contents (text and media) of your RCS chats as it’s in transit between the sender and receiver. Google is using the Signal Protocol and offers a technical paper with more details. 

E2EE requires both parties to have Chat features and data/Wi-Fi enabled. It does not work for SMS/MMS or group messaging, though it’s available when using the Messages for web app. If those requirements are met, this layer of security is automatically active for both existing and new conversations. It cannot be disabled in a privacy-conscious stance by Google.

You will see a lock icon in the “Chatting with” banner, timestamps, and on the send button when end-to-end encryption is enabled/used for delivery. Meanwhile, if E2EE is temporarily lost, the default behavior will be to hold the message until that secure connection is restored, though you can decide to send with SMS.

Encryption converts data into scrambled text that’s unreadable without a secret key number that’s only available “on your device and the device you message.” It’s “generated again for each message” and “deleted from the sender’s device when the encrypted message is created, and deleted from the receiver’s device when the message is decrypted.”

Each E2EE conversation also has a unique verification code that you can manually verify with the other person by tapping the overflow menu > Details > Verify encryption.

End-to-end encryption in Google Messages was quietly announced alongside other summer Android announcements today. We’ve reached out to Google for additional confirmation, but the accompanying support document no longer tells users to sign up for the Messages beta.

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Abner Li

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