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NEW DELHI: Tech giant Google has started providing end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on the Google Messages app, which is the default SMS service on many Android phones. The app allows carriers to deliver rich communication services (RCS) and is seen as an alternative to Apple’s iMessage service on iPhones. The Android maker completed the rollout of Google Messages to all countries last year.

E2EE on Google Messages app will work only for one-to-one communication, and isn’t available for group chat. It will also require users to turn on the RCS option, which allows carriers to deliver features like read receipts, typing status, location and more. These features are usually seen in instant messaging services like WhatsApp, Signal and more, but they haven’t been seen in regular SMS services for long.

Enabling E2EE on the default messaging app, though, makes Google the newest to jump on the encrypted messaging bandwagon, something world governments have opposed for a while. SMS messages are usually easier to track, since they happen over a carrier’s network, instead of private servers owned by a corporation. Telecom service providers are required by law to retain a copy of all text messages sent over their network, and provide the same upon receiving proper legal requests. E2EE might make this more difficult, since the technology allows only the sender and receiver of a text to read it.

“No matter who you’re messaging with, the information you share is personal. End-to-end encryption in Messages helps keep your conversations more secure while sending. It ensures that no one can read the content of your messages as they travel between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging," Google wrote on its website.

Google’s foray into E2EE on Messages could also prompt other smartphone makers to enable the service on their apps. Companies like Samsung, Xiaomi and many others provide default SMS apps on their phones, and could enable E2EE to compete with Google.

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