For the past few months, users in India who use RCS (Rich Communication Services) have encountered a barrage of ads coming in through the Google Messages app. The issue was getting so out of hand that users reported getting several ads a day that were predatory in nature, looking to get users to disclose private and financial information. Of course, this is not an RCS-only problem as we have seen the same type of practices with SMS. However, as RCS provides branding, rich media, and interactivity, the ads are designed to look almost legit, posing a risk for those who receive them.
To make matters worse, the ads were coming from accounts that were labeled as “Verified Business,” which means that these scammers were using Google’s Business Messaging feature, which is meant to be used only to send confirmation texts to users based on past purchases or activities, and always at the users’ request. These “ads” or spam were far from any of those things. Google has since then responded to the issue and issued the below statement to Android Authority:
We are aware that some businesses are abusing our anti-spam policies to send promotional messages to users in India. We are disabling this feature in India while we work with the industry to improve the experience for users.
Disabling RCS Business Messaging will allow users in India to continue using RCS in Google Messages without worrying about these types of ads monopolizing their messaging app. Furthermore, it was very important for Google to address and develop a solution quickly before it spread further.
I’m curious what Google plans to do to stop this from happening in the future. While effective, for now, they cannot keep RCS Business Messaging disabled indefinitely in India, and surely they cannot continue to use this as a stopgap solution. As the issue is now known, it is only a matter of time before scammers elsewhere pursue and abuse this method. Let’s hope Google has come up with a better, more permanent solution by then.