Google Messages encryption in beta, launching soon
Today, Google announced an update on the rollout of rich communication services (RCS) for its official Messages app. RCS support — which Google markets as Chat — is now available around the world for everyone who uses the app. That means you can access RCS features regardless of your phone or carrier. The only stipulation is that the person(s) with whom you are communicating also must have Chat active within Messages.
On top of this news, the company also announced that a beta rollout of Google Messages encryption is on the way. This will allow for end-to-end encryption of all communications for Messages users. Encrypted conversations will help Messages become a viable chat alternative for users who refuse to leave WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, or other encrypted chat apps.
Google Messages encryption: How, why, and when?
To access end-to-end encryption within Messages when it rolls out in beta, you will need to meet certain criteria:
- You and the person you are communicating with must be beta testers. Instructions for that are here.
- You and your chat partner must be using the beta version of Messages for Android.
- You both must have Chat features turned on.
Google would not commit to a specific timeline of when Google Messages encryption will land for beta testers. All it would say is that it will begin this month, so sometime before December 1, 2020.
Presumably, there will be a beta testing period to last at least a few months and then a slow rollout of encryption features to non-beta users. This could take anywhere from a few months to a year.
Once end-to-end encryption is on and active for all, you will still need to be chatting with other people using Messages with Chat features enabled. This will make things a little tricky when you are communicating with people who use a different app or people who use iPhones. As such, it is unlikely Messages will ever be at parity with cross-platform encrypted chat apps such as Telegram.
Still, Google Messages encryption is good news for everyone, as it will bring more security to millions of users. Hopefully, Google won’t make us all wait too long!