I am so tired of how tech sites preach the gospel of RCS as the “solution” to interoperability between messaging on Android and iOS, based on nothing more than parroting Google’s “talking points”.
Google is also calling attention to the fact that SMS and MMS are older and less secure than the RCS standard that’s now common on Android phones: While one-on-one RCS conversations are encrypted, SMS and MMS conversations aren’t.
The RCS standard- which Apple could adopt as an additional layer of fallback for messages- does not include support for end-to-end encryption in single or group chats. Instead, Google has built its own proprietary encryption extensions on RCS. Unfortunately, they only work if you use Google servers for messaging and with Google’s Messages app. Although Google has published top-level technical papers, there is no way that open clients, or Apple, can support Google’s proprietary encryption at this point.
The comments on that Android Police article prove just how well Google’s PR campaign is landing with some — and how important it is for tech sites to start getting this right. The comments are full of people talking about how Apple is stopping messages from being secure by not adopting RCS as if it was part of the open standard that Apple could adopt.
Now, of course, I am sure Google would be “happy to work with” Apple to support its proprietary encryption. But that would mean Apple effectively handing over control over messaging standards not to a standards body but to Google. Anyone who thinks that is likely to happen doesn’t know Apple. And anyone who says it should happen doesn’t don’t know Google.
Google wants to encourage the adoption of RCS because it offers another platform for advertising. And although messages sent between Android users (using Google’s app) are encrypted, and Google can’t read the content, it can track who you are messaging, which gives it a significant data point about who your social circle is. In addition, that gives it data about the strength of relationships in your social graph, which it hasn’t had much insight into since the decline of email as a personal communication method.
Adopting RCS, of course, also counters the real target of Google’s strategy here: Meta. WhatsApp is wildly popular, particularly outside the US, and Meta bought it in the first place to get access to that social graph data about who you message most often. So Google needs a counter, and RCS adoption — with its proprietary extensions — is what it is pinning its hopes on.