Last month, Google announced that its Rich Communication Services (RCS) chat protocol was globally available (with a few exceptions). Alongside that announcement, the company announced plans to add end-to-end encryption — sometimes referred to as E2EE — to the Messages app. Now, it’s starting to arrive for some users.
To start, Google said it would roll out E2EE to the Messages app beta. Similar to most new Google app features, that likely means it’ll arrive for small groups of people in select regions. As spotted by 9to5Google, some users are now seeing the feature appear in the Messages app beta on their devices.
— ᴊᴜʟɪᴏ ツ (@DaX05) December 7, 2020
Twitter user @DaX05 shared a picture of the encryption feature in his Messages app. That tweet was then shared on the ‘r/Android‘ subreddit where several other users have responded noting the feature is available for them, including someone in Canada on the Rogers network.
However, the carrier you’re with shouldn’t impact the rollout of the feature. That’s in part because Google largely chose to bypass carriers around the world with the RCS rollout after the poor initial rollout. It’s also because the E2EE feature in Messages isn’t actually part of the RCS protocol.
As noted before, E2EE will be a feature of Google’s Messages app and will only apply to one-to-one conversations sent between Messages users over RCS. While the search giant has expressed willingness to work with other companies to bring compatibility to other RCS apps, it remains unclear if other players will cooperate. Further, because E2EE isn’t a part of the RCS protocol, there’s little incentive for other companies to implement it on their apps.
Messages beta users should look for a lock icon on their chats
Regarding the current rollout of the feature to the Messages beta app, if you do happen to get it, you may not be able to try it out. E2EE over RCS in Messages requires two users with the feature to chat together — if you don’t regularly communicate with someone using the Messages beta, the chances are slim you’ll get E2EE for now.
On the upside, 9to5Google notes that for people who do get the feature, it is enabled by default for one-to-one conversations and it also upgrades past chats to E2EE, making it a very privacy-first option from Google. 9to5 also notes there isn’t a way to disable E2EE.
If you get the feature, you should see a banner appear in conversations that says something like ‘🔒 Chatting with [name]’ followed by a link to ‘Learn more.’ Further, a blue bubble should appear on your phone letting you know the feature is available, and a lock icon should appear next to the ‘Delivered’ status below your messages and next to the ‘Send’ button.