Google recently finished rolling out end-to-end encryption (E2EE) for group chats in beta, but the Messages capability currently has a 21-person limit.
Messages widely rolled out encryption for 1:1 RCS conversations in June of 2021. It finally came to group conversations in December, though the functionality is still only for users enrolled in the open beta version of the app.
So far, users have found that end-to-end encryption is only available in group conversations that have 21 people (you and 20 others) in total. Adding another person immediately switches E2EE “off” on the Group details page. You just get an “End-to-end encryption isn’t available in this conversation” line that isn’t very helpful. Usually, Messages points out who E2EE isn’t currently available for.
Update: Shortly after publishing, we received one report that the limit has been raised, with the related test flag being increased to 100 people. We’ve reached out to Google for more information.
Google confirmed to us this group chat encryption limit for Messages today, and noted that “the limit is part of the beta testing.” The company did not address whether it plans to raise that cap once the feature becomes more widely available, but that could be the case, reading between the lines.
Looking at the rest of the landscape, Signal offers end-to-end encryption with a size limit of 1,000 for “New Group” chats, and iMessage groups support up to 32 people.
Legacy SMS group conversations support 10 in total, while RCS goes up to 100. The current state of encrypted RCS group chat is an upgrade over what it replaces, but people — especially in family contexts — can bump into the 21-person limit compared to regular RCS groups and other modern messaging services.
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Thanks, Andrew and Jayson
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