End-to-end encryption for RCS appears to finally be in the pipeline for Google’s messaging app. That’s according to code spotted in an upcoming version update by the folks at APKMirror, as first reported by 9to5 Google this weekend.
Rich communication services, or RCS, is a type of messaging protocol that puts its predecessor, SMS, to shame. It offers a lot of the modern conveniences found on apps like Apple’s iMessage and WhatsApp that users have already come to expect: group chats, read receipts, typing indicators, an 8,000 character limit (as opposed to SMS’ measly 160), and the ability to tap into both wifi or data to send messages.
While far from groundbreaking, these features have been a long-time coming for Google Messages. After promising a successor to SMS as far back as 2016, Google finally finished its stymied rollout of RCS on Android phones in the U.S. at the end of last year. Many international markets are still waiting on it.
And even with how much of a mess widespread adoption has been, Google Messages still lacks a key security feature already supported by competitors like Signal and iMessage: end-to-end encryption. This keeps third-parties from possibly snooping on your messages, and has been a hot-button issue in recent years as more and more of our daily (and potentially sensitive) communications bleed onto online platforms.
The code for an internal build of Google Messages version 6.2 includes 12 new strings that reference encryption, according to an analysis by 9to5 Google. Details are scarce, though, and it’s still unclear whether both the message’s sender and recipient would need to be using Google Messages app for it to be successfully encrypted.
If so, that could change once more apps gain support, 9to5 Google notes. To that effect, the update’s code suggests that users may be able to toggle permissions to allow other Android apps that have access to messages view these encrypted messages as well.
Of course, there’s no telling when such a feature might materialise. While Google’s indicated that it’s exploring development of end-to-end encryption, no timeline exists as of yet for when users can expect to get their hands on it.