Ever since Edward Snowden’s revelation that NSA is able to read messages of users from services that do not use end-to-end encryption, a lot of messaging services have upgraded their encryption system and a whole bunch of other secure messaging services have popped up.
Apple has already confirmed that its iMessage messaging service uses end-to-end encryption that makes it “NSA proof.” While Google has been also vocal about the privacy of its users, the company has been mum whether Hangouts supports end-to-end encryption or not.
In a recent AMA on Reddit from Google’s public policy and legal teams, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union Christopher Soghoian asked the team to clarify whether Hangouts indeed supports end-to-end encryption or not.
The question was dodged by Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, and David Lieber, who only said that messages in Hangouts were encrypted “in transit.” Most importantly though, they said that “there are legal authorities that allow the government to wiretap communications.”
This means that while the messages from Hangouts cannot be read by anyone while in transit, once they reach Google’s server, they are unencrypted and can be wiretapped by Google or other government agencies.
A spokesperson from Google has also confirmed that Hangouts indeed does not feature end-to-end encryption.
Compared to other messaging services, Google’s Hangouts messaging service is already behind the curve, and the lack of an end-to-end encryption is further going to damage its reputation in the eyes of the tech-savvy consumers.