How Google chat features keep your conversations secure

Chat features let you send messages over mobile data and Wi-Fi, share files and high-resolution photos, show you when someone is typing and show you when messages are read.

When you use chat features, your messages are sent using the Rich Communication Service (RCS) protocol, an industry standard for operator messaging. Before messages can be sent using RCS, everyone in a conversation must have chat features turned on. Otherwise, messages can be sent via SMS or MMS. Either your RCS service provider, like your mobile operator, or Jibe Mobile from Google (Terms of Service) can provide chat features. 

This article describes how Google uses and protects your RCS message data when chat features are provided by Google. Learn how to activate chat features. 

How chat features work

When you use chat features with Google, messages are sent and received through Google’s RCS backend over the Internet. Messages can either be delivered to or received from users on other RCS service providers. If your chat features are provided by Google, but your recipient’s RCS service is with another provider, your messages are routed through Google’s RCS backend and then routed to your recipient's RCS backend. 

Delivery of SMS and MMS messages, which are always sent through your operator, won't change as part of your use of Google chat features.

Information that we use

To make sure that your messages are properly delivered, Google uses information like your phone number, device identifiers and SIM card number. This data may be stored for about a month in order to keep you connected to RCS and in cases where you temporarily go offline. 

When you turn on chat features, and each time you send a message, Google checks your contacts to find out if they can also use chat features. These checks may go through Google’s RCS backend and other service providers to reach your contacts.

How we protect your data

Chat features by Google uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption to protect your messages. This means that anyone trying to intercept messages between you and Google would only be able to see encrypted, unreadable text.

How and why your data is temporarily stored

RCS messages that you send using Google’s RCS backend are temporarily queued for delivery and deleted after they’re delivered. For undelivered RCS messages, you can switch to SMS or MMS provided by your operator, in which case the corresponding RCS message is deleted from the queue.

Google’s RCS backend sends and temporarily stores files like images, videos, GIFs and stickers with random, unguessable URLs. These links aren't shared with you or the person receiving your message. To prevent connections between the hosted file and your phone number, Google uses a special algorithm (hash function) that transforms these URLs and makes it very difficult to associate the file and your phone number.

You're in control

Find out how to activate chat features.

Check if chat features are turned on

  • If your message’s compose bar says 'Chat message', your message will be sent through chat features from either Google or from your operator's RCS service.
  • If your message’s compose bar says 'Text message', your message will be sent through your operator as SMS/MMS. Conversations will have 'SMS' or 'MMS' below the send icon.

Turn chat features on or off

Important: After you remove your SIM card, chat features may still work for about 8 days.

  1. Open Messages Messages logo round.
  2. Tap More More and then Settings.
  3. Tap Chat features.
  4. Turn on Enable chat features.

When you turn chat features off, other functions like typing indicators and read receipts will also turn off.

Chat features with other messaging apps

RCS is an industry standard for operator messaging. This means that messaging apps that support RCS standard, like Samsung Messages, may connect to chat features by Google. To learn about other apps’ settings and data handling, refer to your messaging app’s documentation.

Turn chat features on or off on most Samsung devices

  1. Open the Samsung Messages app.
  2. Go to Menu Google Play Store Menu Icon and thenSettings.
  3. Tap Chat settings
  4. Turn Rich Communication Settings on or off.
 
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