Here’s some recent alarming news for fans of gchat, Google’s instant messaging platform that is available within users’ Gmail and Google+ browser windows. At the recent Google I/O conference, Google announced that it was switching gchat (also known as Google Talk) to a new platform called Hangouts, which coincides with its video chat feature on Google+ of the same name.
What does this mean for users?
Unfortunately as part of the upgrade, Google Hangout users no longer have the option to disable the archiving (saving) of all conversations that take place via chat. In Google Support, they state:
We’ve made a change to the Google Chat and Google Talk chat history settings. You can turn individual chats off the record, but you’ll no longer have the option to turn chat history off for all of your chats.
This means that users may have to worry about how their conversations are being saved by the people they are communicating with, as well as that information getting into the wrong hands through security glitches or hackers.
As Electronic Frontier Foundation states:
Previously, users could disable “chat history,” which would prevent instant messages from being saved to their Gmail account. Under the new settings, users who don’t want to keep a copy of their conversations accessible through Gmail must disable the re-named “Hangout History” on an individual basis with each contact.1 The catch is that users can only disable Hangout History with an official Google Hangouts client.
So privacy conscious users who want to use Off-the-Record encryption where possible, but to keep messages out of their Gmail accounts in any case, are out of luck. And if they wish to continue chatting with their friends on Google chat, they can’t even take their business elsewhere.
This change also means that Google has dropped its support for the open standards of instant messaging, which includes XMPP server support. This gives users the ability to chat with other users across multiple platforms.
Brosix recently announced support of XMPP so users can chat across multiple platforms. To learn more, visit our announcement blog post about it.