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Google’s RCS service is being abused in India for ads

There has been a steady rise in reports of more and more ads showing up in Google Message users’ inboxes in India over the last few months. While these ads aren’t anything new, their frequency seems to have picked up drastically. 

According to Google’s Jibe website, the feature is supposed to provide users with additional functionality straight in their SMS inbox, such as sending copies of travel tickets or letting them buy additional products based on previous purchases, that too on a user’s request. 

Google announced the feature back in 2020 to allow customers to talk to businesses. While advertising was part of the functionality, it wasn’t the only intended feature, as its being treated currently. 

Most of these ads come from “verified businesses” such as Bajaj Finserve, Buddy Loan, Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI and PolicyBazaar, among several other renowned brands in the country. The ads mostly revolve around personal loans or financing of some kind, a rather dangerous sector riddled with scams targeting the lower and middle class. 

The RCS ads we’ve been receiving.

This abuse, at least in this quantity, seems only to be happening in the Indian market. However, this could set the trend for other businesses to follow suit, which could be problematic considering Google Messages is the default messaging app on most Android devices. 

Solutions range from reporting and blocking businesses to disabling RCS altogether in the app, something which shouldn’t be a problem for Indians considering their use of Whatsapp, Telegram and similar messaging apps as primary means of messaging. 

DIsabling RCS seems to be the only permanent way to block these ads at the moment. Switching to another SMS app can also work since it disables RCS. 

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