Google is testing end-to-end encryption for Android text messages

It will initially only be available in one-to-one chats.

Angela Lange / CNET

Google said Thursday that it will add a major privacy feature to its Android messaging app to make text messages more secure. The search giant is End-to-end encryption testing, Which protects the messages so that they cannot be read by Google or other third parties as the content is sent from one phone to another.

Last year, Google revamped its text messaging service on Android phones, adding modern features like read receipts and writing indicators. The update is made possible by a technology called RCS, or Rich Communication Services, which aims to replace SMS, a robust but tiresome protocol that is over 25 years old. Google said Thursday that it has completed its global rollout of RCS.

When Google launched the RCS update last year, end-to-end encryption was noticeably missing. The feature has become the standard for privacy in messaging apps, including Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. in timeGoogle called it a “somewhat complex topic” and said there were “technical complications”.

Google is now slowly bringing the feature to its Android Messaging app. It will initially only be available in one-on-one chats, not group chat threads. End-to-end encryption will turn on automatically if both users have enabled RCS features on their phones. Google will begin testing the privacy feature this month and continue rolling it out next year.

Launching end-to-end encryption is an important addition to texting on Android, the most popular mobile operating system on the planet. Nearly nine in 10 smartphones shipped are running the software.

The strength of Android services is also important to Google business in general because the operating system acts as a gateway to the company’s other services, such as Search and Maps.

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