Why iMessage is much more secure than Google Hangouts

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Google Hangouts

These days, end-to-end encryption is important when it comes to our online privacy. It means that whenever you send a message from your computer or smartphone, it’s encrypted the moment you send it until it’s received, so that no third parties can intercept the message.

Google does not use end-to-end encryption, iMessage does

Apple says that it does use end-to-end encryption for iMessage content. Google however, does not. The company has been extremely cagey about its privacy practices in the past, and a recent Reddit AMA explains the reasons why.

Recently two Google security executives, Richard Salgado and David Lieber, took to Reddit to answer questions from the public. The American Civil Liberties Union’s principal technologist Christopher Soghoian too the opportunity to quiz them.

He asked, “Why has Google refused to be transparent about its ability to provide wiretaps for Hangouts? Given Google’s rather impressive track record regarding surveillance transparency, the total secrecy regarding the company’s surveillance capabilities for this product is quite unusual.”

Salgado responded, “Hangouts are encrypted in transit”.

Apple iMessage
Apple’s iMessage running on an iPhone 5S.

This is a pretty important admission on Google’s part, as it means that Google can access whatever you are sending, which is not the case for iMessage. A Reddit user explained:

“For non-technical readers, this means that Hangouts are only encrypted on their way between your computer and Google’s servers. Once they arrive at Google’s end, Google has full access. In short, this is confirmation Google can wiretap Hangouts”.

Later on, website Motherboard also asked Google, which “confirmed that Hangouts doesn’t use end-to-end encryption”.

This policy won’t go down well with anyone concerned about security, and highlights the limitations of Hangouts. This is pretty telling when you compare Google’s policy with Apple’s end-to-end iMessage encryption. Apple also says that even if it wanted to decode your messages, it can’t…

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