Google Rolls Out End-to-End Encryption for Android Messages

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Google has finally announced that end-to-end encryption (E2EE) will begin rolling out on its Messages platform, bringing it in line with rivals WhatsApp and iMessage in the security stakes.

Messages by Google is built on the open Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard to offer improvements over legacy SMS such as anti-spam, launching of video calls direct from conversations, Smart Reply and more.

Google announced late last Friday that it had completed its global rollout of the platform for all Android users.

However, until now the missing piece in the puzzle was security, with both Facebook (WhatsApp) and Apple offering E2EE to maximize privacy for their users.

Google now joins its rivals with these capabilities, starting with one-to-one conversations and only when both users are on Messages.

“End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including Google and third parties, can read the content of your messages as they travel between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging,” explained product lead, Drew Rowney. “This will roll out to beta testers beginning this month and continue into next year.”

However, while the new functionality is likely to be a hit with consumers and business users, it will put Google on a collision path with legislators and law enforcers in the US.

Over recent years, high-profile figures have tried to pressure tech giants like Apple into engineering bespoke backdoors into their products so that investigators can unlock phones and read the encrypted messages of suspects.

They argue that E2EE otherwise offers a safe haven for terrorists, child abusers and other criminal elements — disregarding the fact that if Apple et al were to accede to their wishes, these individuals would surely migrate to other platforms.

Now Google will have to stand up for its users and argue that backdoors cannot be engineered for law enforcement without undermining security for all — a point repeatedly batted away by lawmakers.

In its most recent missive last month, the Five Eyes intelligence community plus India and Japan repeated its demands, and argued that the tech community just isn’t trying hard enough to find a way forward.  

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