Last month, Google announced End-to-End encryption (E2EE) would soon be available for RCS messages in its Google Messages app on Android. According to numerous reports, the feature is already rolling out to Google Messages beta testers, which means it’ll probably show up in the regular version of the app soon.
This is a pretty big deal. Adding E2EE to any form of communication adds an extra layer of security to a conversation, and all the messages and files within it. Encrypted messaging apps aren’t anything new; E2EE conversations are available in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple’s Messages, Signal, Telegram, and plenty of other apps, but E2EE launching in Google Messages is an important upgrade.
Google Messages supports RCS messages, which are quickly replacing SMS as the standard text messaging protocol. RCS messaging is better than SMS in many ways, but it wasn’t until Google developed a universal RCS protocol known as “Chat” that the technology finally saw widespread adoption. Unlike other RCS protocols, however, Chat lacked E2EE. That was a blow to privacy-minded users and advocates who hoped RCS would be a more secure replacement for SMS.
Worry, no more.
How to use use E2EE in Google Messages
To try out E22EE right now, you’ll need to enroll in the Google Messages beta program on Android. Otherwise, hang tight, as the feature will roll out to everybody in an upcoming update for the stable version of the app.
From there, you’ll need to turn on Chat features in Messages:
- Tap the three-dot button in the upper-right, then tap “Settings.”
- Select “Chat features.”
- Toggle “Enable chat features” on.
Encrypted conversations display a padlock icon next to the “delivered” tag under the most recently-sent message, and also on the “Send” button.
Note that Google Message’s E2EE only kicks in when both members in a conversation are using the latest version of the app on devices and mobile networks that support RCS messaging (most do). All other conversations — including group chats — will be left unencrypted. It’s theoretically possible that group-chat encryption could show up in a future Messages update, but Google hasn’t indicated such a feature is on the way.