Google Messages RCS is abused for ads

Advertising tends to creep into anything and everything you use in one form or another, and text messaging seems to be a priority for some brands in India. Lately, Google Messages and its RCS messaging have been abused by companies in India.

Over the past few weeks, Google Messages users in India have been reporting more and more announcements being delivered via RCS messaging. While many brands – even in the US and other countries – have used messaging apps and text messages to advertise new products to former customers, these ads shown in India are not necessarily the result of a user’s purchase activity.

Commercial messaging on RCS, as Google’s Jibe website points out, is meant to be used for things like sending copies of your travel tickets or sending links to purchase additional products based on a purchase. past based on a users request.

Google explains:

Millions of businesses rely on SMS to communicate with mobile consumers. Credit card fraud alerts, flight status updates, and package delivery notifications are common examples of business-to-consumer text messages.

RCS (Rich Communication Services) upgrades SMS with branding, rich media, interactivity and analytics. With RCS, businesses can bring branded, interactive mobile experiences directly to the default messaging app.

This is not at all what is currently happening in India.

Brought to our attention by Ishan Argwal on Twitter, RCS ads in Google Messages appear to be from “Verified Business” accounts. Google first announced this feature in 2020, with the goal of enabling customers to talk to businesses. Advertising was surely part of the feature, but it is clearly abused in India. android font says these ads have been running for almost a year now, citing examples of ads sent by Kotak Mahindra Bank, Bajaj Finserv, Buddy Loan and PolicyBazaar. From what we can tell from user reports, it seems that the frequency of these ads has increased in the last few months in particular.

These ads aren’t harmless either, many of the examples we’ve seen are for personal loans, a category that tends to be full of predatory practices. A user reports that they received one of these ads on a phone that didn’t even have an active SIM card.

Currently, it seems that this practice occurs mainly in the Indian market, at least in this quantity.

What can be done about these ads in Google Messages? Not all solutions are entirely ideal, unfortunately. You can report these companies and block them from sending future messages, as shown below.

You can also disable RCS features entirely in the Google Messages app. This drastic decision shouldn’t be necessary in the first place, but it seems to be the only guaranteed way to prevent these ads from appearing. Switching to an alternative SMS app also prevents this from happening because, after all, it also disables RCS. While this situation shouldn’t exist in the first place, disabling RCS isn’t a big deal for more people from the region, as WhatsApp and similar messaging apps are the main forms of messaging in India.

We contacted Google regarding the ads in Google Messages RCS and this apparent abuse of the system, but the company was unable to provide a statement on this in time for publication.

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