Chats in Google Messages are about to get even more secure

Google has announced that it's bringing end-to-end encryption to group chats in the Google Messages app. The security upgrade is heading to beta users first before being rolled out more widely.

End-to-end encryption means no one, not even Google, can read the content of messages. It's already supported in the Google Messages app for one-to-one chats, but now (via The Verge) it's going to be added to group conversations as well.

“End-to-end encryption is starting to roll out for group chats and will be available to some users in the open beta program over the coming weeks,” Google says. “This shouldn’t even be a thought – just an expectation and something anyone texting should not have to worry about.”

From SMS to RCS

In the same announcement blog post, Google revealed that the ability to quickly react to a message with any emoji is coming to Google Messages soon as well. At the moment, only a selection of emojis can be used as reactions.

Alongside a mention of these new features, Google also continued to push hard for RCS (Rich Communication Services) to become the new standard for everyone – the technology, an upgrade on SMS, is now widely available but has yet to be adopted by Apple on its iPhones.

Google's post also acknowledged the 30th anniversary of the SMS, a milestone which emphasizes how old the technology is as well as how overdue we now are for a standard that can fully replace it.


Analysis: SMS should really be history

The arrival of SMS three decades ago helped to transform the way that we communicate with each other – even if the messages were limited in terms of characters, and many phones could only store a limited number of texts at any one time.

Now, apps like WhatsApp and Slack have taken us far, far beyond those limitations. Messages can be much longer and include photos, videos or audio, and we can even tell when recipients have opened up the messages we send them.

It's benefits like these that make RCS a worthwhile upgrade, improving the security of messages and making features such as group chats much better. Google didn't create the standard, but it is heavily promoting it.

However, whenever an iPhone user texts an Android user, SMS is still the protocol used. Google wants that to change, but it's unlikely that Apple ever will – Apple knows that iMessage is one of the key reasons that people stick with iPhones.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp may soon bring polls to group chats

WhatsApp might soon introduce a new feature that will allow users to conduct polls within groups. The feature can be expected to roll out to the final version in the coming weeks. The new feature is currently being tested on iOS, but may also come to Android.

As reported by Android Police and WABetaInfo, the Meta owned messaging app may soon enable polls for groups. Polls have been present on other apps like Twitter, Telegram and even Facebook.

The report has indicated that the feature is currently being tested in WhatsApp’s 22.8.0.72 beta version showing that you can create a question followed by adding choices for responses. The number of choices is limited to 12 and they can be rearranged in any order, according to the report. The polls feature was already under development. However, it is only in the recent beta version we have got to see the work in progress.

WhatsApp polls

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It is unclear as of this time if these would be admin restricted or not. However, it may be possible that WhatsApp may create options within the group to control and restrict who can create these polls within the group. More details could emerge in the coming weeks while this feature nears completion.

WhatsApp’s Communities vision

While WhatsApp recently rolled out multi-device logins for Android and iOS users, the instant messaging app has been working on a dedicated Communities feature as well. This would allow members of multiple groups to be part of a single group as well. These can be created by group admins only and give them greater control over managing multiple groups too.

From a larger perspective, it looks like WhatsApp is looking to turn itself not just into an instant messaging app for friends, families and businesses. But instead, it's looking to create a similar experience to the one Discord offers.

WhatsApp could be aiming for a similar experience where members from various groups who have a common interest are able to meet members from groups that they aren’t a part of. Although it is interesting to see these new features, we would have to wait and see how they would work in real-world usage.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

WhatsApp may soon bring polls to group chats

WhatsApp might soon introduce a new feature that will allow users to conduct polls within groups. The feature can be expected to roll out to the final version in the coming weeks. The new feature is currently being tested on iOS, but may also come to Android.

As reported by Android Police and WABetaInfo, the Meta owned messaging app may soon enable polls for groups. Polls have been present on other apps like Twitter, Telegram and even Facebook.

The report has indicated that the feature is currently being tested in WhatsApp’s 22.8.0.72 beta version showing that you can create a question followed by adding choices for responses. The number of choices is limited to 12 and they can be rearranged in any order, according to the report. The polls feature was already under development. However, it is only in the recent beta version we have got to see the work in progress.

WhatsApp polls

(Image credit: WABetaInfo)

It is unclear as of this time if these would be admin restricted or not. However, it may be possible that WhatsApp may create options within the group to control and restrict who can create these polls within the group. More details could emerge in the coming weeks while this feature nears completion.

WhatsApp’s Communities vision

While WhatsApp recently rolled out multi-device logins for Android and iOS users, the instant messaging app has been working on a dedicated Communities feature as well. This would allow members of multiple groups to be part of a single group as well. These can be created by group admins only and give them greater control over managing multiple groups too.

From a larger perspective, it looks like WhatsApp is looking to turn itself not just into an instant messaging app for friends, families and businesses. But instead, it's looking to create a similar experience to the one Discord offers.

WhatsApp could be aiming for a similar experience where members from various groups who have a common interest are able to meet members from groups that they aren’t a part of. Although it is interesting to see these new features, we would have to wait and see how they would work in real-world usage.

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More

Messenger calls and chats are now fully encrypted – if you want them to be

Meta-owned Messenger has announced the launch of end-to-end (E2E) encryption across its platform, meaning chats and calls should be safe from snooping.

Users can now choose whether to have their messages, group chats and calls fully encrypted when logged into the service. One option is to use vanish mode, which can be activated by swiping up on an existing chat to activate a new option where messages automatically disappear when the chat window is closed.

There's also the Secret Conversations feature, first introduced back in 2016, which also offers fully-secured chats and can be toggled on by swiping on the lock icon when starting a new chat.

E2E encryption on Messenger

The launch is a slight surprise, given that Meta said in November 2021 that it would delay the roll out of E2E encryption by default on Messenger and Instagram until 2023 as it examined the effect such a move would have on users.

“We know that people expect their messaging apps to be secure, private and provide them a space to be expressive,” Timothy Buck, Product Manager, Messenger wrote in a company blog post.

“Building secure and fun interactive features takes time and requires our engineers to innovate and solve technical challenges, so this is part of a series of product updates as we keep improving our services. With cybercrime and hacking on the rise, it’s more important than ever to find great ways to connect with friends and family through private and secure communications.”

“We know the importance of safety and privacy when it comes to communicating with the people who matter most to you. End-to-end encryption protects you and your data from hackers, criminals and other prying eyes.”

The news comes shortly after the UK government hired a top ad agency to help it launch a campaign against Meta's plans to introduce E2E for Messenger. The Home Office apparently believes the move will allegedly help criminals, and has pointed to Meta's WhatsApp platform, which also features E2E encryption as an example of unregulated technology leading to crime.

Messenger's rivals have no such qualms, with many having already introduced E2E encryption already. Microsoft Teams announced its E2EE launch in December 2021, with Android Messages adding the facility back in June 2021.

  • If you are concerned about privacy, consider using one of the best VPN services

TechRadar – All the latest technology news

Read More