Google Adds Verified SMS and Spam Protection to Messages App

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Google is adding and extending some security-focused features to its Android Messages app starting today.

The first of these features is what’s known as “verified SMS,” which involves Google working with “trusted” companies to ensure that the text messages they send to customers are clearly labeled as legitimate. This means that when an end user receives a critical communication from a business, such as a one-time password or an appointment confirmation, they will know that the message is indeed from the business – rather than from. ‘a bad actor who may be trying to phish the user or direct them to a bogus website.

Partner companies on board for the launch include Kayak, Payback, SoFi, Banco Bradeseco and 1-800 Flowers, and Google has also opted for two of its own services in the program: Google Identity Verification and Google Pay.

Bad actor

The underlying problem this seeks to address is that when customers normally receive a text message from a company, there is often nothing to indicate who sent it, other than a name other than the company itself. same provides in the message. With verified SMS, Google essentially confirms that a business is what it claims to be. When that company wants to send a message to a customer, it creates what Google calls an “unreadable authenticity code” or message hash, and sends the code to Google. This code is unique to each post, and Google matches the code to the registered company and displays the company logo with a “verified” icon.

If the codes do not match, it will trigger a “message could not be verified” alert.

Above: Android App Messages from Google: Verified SMS

It should also be noted that this feature requires an active data connection. Thus, if your phone is not connected to mobile Internet or to Wi-Fi, the application will display the following message: “Waiting for connection to verify the sender”.

Google has been working on verified SMS for some time, and the feature started showing up a few weeks ago in a beta version of the app. Starting today, it will be rolled out gradually to nine countries: the US, UK, India, Mexico, Brazil, France, Philippines, Spain and Canada. Other countries are expected in the future.

Elsewhere, Google launched a real-time spam detection feature in a handful of countries over the past year, and as of today, it’s landing widely in the United States.

The feature works by detecting phone numbers that are not among a user’s contacts and alerts the user that the message might be spam or contain links to unsafe websites. The company also solicits feedback from the user by asking them to confirm whether a post is spam or not.

Above: Real-time spam protection in the Google Messages app

This feature could lead to privacy concerns, as Google said it temporarily stores the phone numbers of people and businesses that users converse with. However, this only applies when a number is not in a user’s contacts, and Google is quick to note that it does not link any of this stored data to the user. And it does not read the content of the message. The FAQ page reads as follows:

This data is not linked to you or to identifiers such as your name or phone number, which means that Google does not know who you are sending messages to. The content of your post is neither seen nor stored by Google as part of this feature. Learn more about reporting spam or blocking a number.

It should also be noted that verified SMS and spam protection are enabled by default, but the user can disable these features from the app settings.

The case of SMS

While internet-based mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and iMessage are now generally more popular than SMS in many markets, there are still key advantages to simple text messaging over messaging apps. This is because SMS allows users to send messages to anyone with a mobile phone number, without requiring a proprietary app, and it also works in areas where internet access can be spotty. According to Statista data, 1.5 trillion messages were sent by SMS in the United States alone in 2017.

And companies continue to invest in various smart SMS, including Chinese smartphone company OnePlus, which recently upgraded its SMS app with AI that categorizes messages and displays content as visual cards.

As for Google, it has thrown resources into Rich Communication Services (RCS), a kind of next-generation SMS system that mimics many of the best features of internet messaging apps. Google has also looked to make its Messages app smarter through integrations with Google Assistant.


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About Sandra A. Powell

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