Apple announced today that it will adopt the RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging standard in 2024. Rights organizations, including Fight for the Future, have pushed Apple to adopt RCS to allow for better interoperability across Android and iPhones. This move makes it possible for cross-platform messages to be end-to-end encrypted—a security feature that would protect a whole host of vulnerable groups, including pregnant people, LBGTQ+ people, activists, immigrants, and journalists.
While adopting the RCS standard will open the door to end-to-end encryption, Apple said it will not be rolling out end-to-end encryption on top of RCS, but instead will work to improve the security and encryption of RCS overall. Fight for the Future will continue to push Apple and other companies for cross-platform end-to-end encryption.
The following statement can be attributed to Caitlin Seeley George (she/her), Campaigns and Managing Director at Fight for the Future:
“This announcement is a big step towards expanding end-to-end encryption and a victory for everyone, because we will all benefit from more secure messaging options. We are particularly relieved at this change of tone from Apple, when just last year Tim Cook dismissed the idea of interoperability between iPhone and Androids and told a journalist to just ‘buy your mom an iPhone.’
It seems Apple is finally getting its priorities straight. In a world where privacy is under attack, and police can force companies to share anyone’s personal messages, we cannot take the importance of secure messaging lightly. Earlier this year, a mother and daughter in Nebraska were found guilty and served jail time because police used their unencrypted Facebook messages to charge them for facilitating and getting an abortion. Since then, even more states have passed anti-abortion and anti-trans laws, and there is no question that people in these states will be prosecuted with evidence from unencrypted messages—simply for asserting their human right to bodily autonomy. For all those whose rights are being used as political talking points, Apple’s announcement today is a bit of a bright spot. This could really make a difference when it comes to their safety.
While not a total victory, today’s announcement is a clear sign to activists and organizations that have pushed Apple on this point. It shows that they are listening and they’re starting to act on our demands. While this first step might only amount to you being able to send your mom a video without it being blurry and the size of a postage stamp, if we keep up the pressure RCS standard adoption could lead to a future where everyone can send messages to friends and family without worrying about who else might be able to read them.”