Back in November 2020, Google started beta testing end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in Messages, the default texting app for Android. This important security feature has now exited the beta channel and is coming to all one-to-one RCS (Rich Communication Services) conversations on the app. Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President at Google, announced this rollout via a tweet earlier this week. The company also quietly mentioned this addition in its summer Android announcements.
E2EE should be available to all Google Messages users with supported Android smartphones over the next few days. Users don’t need to do anything, it will be available automatically for all eligible conversations.
Note that E2EE doesn’t work for SMS/MMS messages. It’s not available for group RCS messages either. So your messages are only end-to-end encrypted if you’re having a one-to-one RCS conversation either on Google Messages mobile app or on the web. Moreover, both parties need to have Chat features enabled in the app and the device must have an active internet connection. Conversations that are end-to-end encrypted will feature a lock icon in the “Chatting with” banner at the top. The same lock icon can also be seen on timestamps as well as on the send button.
RCS, if you don’t already know, is a kind of successor to SMS. It needs an active data or Wi-fi connection to work and comes with all modern chat features like typing indicator, read recipients, and now, E2EE. If either recipient is offline, the message will not be sent/delivered until the connection is established. Users can still choose to send the message via SMS but it will not be end-to-end encrypted. SMS and RCS messages are differentiated by using different color shades – dark blue for RCS state and light blue for SMS/MMS.
Google widely rolls out end-to-end encryption in Messages
With E2EE enabled, all messages in a conversation are visible only to the two participants of the RCS Chat. Neither Google nor any other third-party server would be able to read them as the messages are indecipherable without the decryption keys that are only available “on your device and the device you message”. Note that you cannot disable this security feature for obvious reasons. You can find the technical details of the E2EE implementation on Google Messages here (via).
Google has yet to say anything about whether it plans to bring E2EE to group conversations on Google Messages. Since many other messaging apps do, the company certainly can’t afford to lag. We will update you if it announces E2EE for groups as well in the future.