With the launch of Google's RCS messaging protocol, is there any reason as to why it doesn't support end to end encryption, or is it a feature that they intend to implement at a later time?
is there any reason as to why it doesn't support end to end encryption, or is it a feature that they intend to implement at a later time?
RCS improves the old SMS by bringing modern features. It provides client to server side encryption but not provide end to end encryption. According to What is RCS messaging? Everything you need to know about the SMS successor:
But Chat is missing one critical element: While the original RCS protocol allowed the implementation of client-to-server encryption, Chat does not offer end-to-end encryption like iMessage or Signal. Rather, it retains the same legal intercept standards as its SMS predecessor.
Asked about the privacy issues related to RCS, Google's product management director for Android Messages replied:
We fundamentally believe that communication, especially messaging, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy for their communications. And we’re fully committed to finding a solution for our users.
Google is working on it but no indication is given as to when end to end encryption will become a feature. In the meantime, when sending a message,
It's encrypted in transit, but it’s not fully end-to-end encrypted, so your RCS provider can potentially see the contents of your messages, and turn them over to the government if properly asked. Google says it will delete them from its servers as soon as they’re delivered to your phone
Like for SMSes, the providers will be able to read your messages until Google decides to implement end to end encryption.
The issue here is that RCS is not a Google product/service. Google serves RCS via a service called Chat, and Google Messages (the pre-installed, default SMS app on most Android phones) supports RCS. The Verge are pretty bad at conflating the two but even they say (emphasis added):
Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It’s going to be called “Chat,” and it’s based on a standard called the “Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services.”
But RCS is actually a "carrier-led" initiative organised by the GSM Association, which defines the "Universal Profile," and there are a lot of companies involved in supplying RCS products. Google has encouraged RCS, because it makes Android phones more appealing and competitive with iPhones and iMessage, but it doesn't "own" the initiative.
That means that RCS is actually provided by mobile operators, who are subject to legal intercept legislation. So when commentators say "Rich Communication Services is generally credited as being more secure" they are mainly talking about verified identities for businesses, which are supposed to reduce fraud. Because typically operators will need a point within their network where messages are unencrypted for when some law enforcement organisation requests access.