Avoiding ads is a fool’s errand, but some of us have it far worse than others. During its I/O keynote last week, Google discussed the advantages of Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging. One Googler even poked fun at Apple for refusing to adopt the technology. But what Google failed to mention during the keynote was how some businesses are abusing a feature of RCS to spam Google Messages users with ads.
Google Messages in India is crawling with ads
As reported by 9to5Google, Google Messages users in India have seen an increasing number of ads delivered through RCS messaging in recent weeks.
Businesses sometimes send text messages to their customers to inform them about deals or to provide shipping updates. Typically, customers have to opt in if they want to receive those texts. That’s not the case for a growing number of Android users in India.
Here’s what Google says about business messaging on its Jibe website:
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 SMS. RCS (Rich Communication Services) upgrades SMS with branding, rich media, interactivity and analytics. With RCS, businesses can bring branded, interactive mobile experiences, right to the default messaging app.
Google certainly makes this sound like a useful upgrade, but many businesses appear to be abusing the feature to bombard consumers with ads. Ishan Agarwal (the prolific tech leaker) brought attention to the problem earlier this week on Twitter:
Agarwal told The Verge this week that the problem has worsened throughout 2022. He claims that he now receives up to five ads a day. Many of the ads appear to be from businesses that Agarwal never purchased anything from in the first place, if not all of them.
How to stop receiving Google Messages ads
According to Android Police, spammy ads have been popping up in Google Messages for the past year. It is possible to block and report the sender as spam under the options tab. Some of the companies include an unsubscribe button in their texts as well. But these will only help you to stop a single business from flooding your Google Messages app with ads. The companies also don’t have to honor your request if you try to unsubscribe.
Therefore, the only surefire method is to deactivate RCS altogether. You can do this by going to Settings in Google Messages, then navigating to General > Chat features. From there, tap the toggle next to Enable chat features to turn RCS off. As Android Police notes, WhatsApp and other third-party options are far more popular in India anyway.
Still, the fact that an Android phone owner’s best bet is to simply turn off one of the device’s key features is troubling. Google needs to address this issue promptly, especially if it plans to continue hyping up RCS as the future of messaging.
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