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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.
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vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

Is Google Chat Safe and Secure to Use With Strangers in 2024?

Husain Parvez Cybersecurity Researcher

With growing concerns about data privacy and security online, it's crucial to understand how well Google Chat (previously Google Hangouts) safeguards your sensitive information. Sure, it’s a great way to communicate with your teachers, students, or team members — but is it really safe?

Google states that Google Chat benefits from built-in security to block potential threats, and that your messages and attachments “are stored securely in our world-class data centers”. This is a little worrying — it wouldn’t be the first time a giant corporation has promised my data is protected, just to announce it was breached and stolen some time after.

I decided to take an in-depth look at the security and the privacy measures that Google Chat takes, to see just how secure it really is. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know to make an informed decision about whether the benefits of Google Chat outweigh any potential risks.

Pro Tip: It's advisable to adopt several protective measures while using any chat app to ensure your privacy and security. For example, a quality VPN like ExpressVPN will encrypt your web traffic, so no third party can intercept your chat messages. It's also essential to use strong passwords, enable two-factor authentication, and avoid clicking on unknown links or attachments.

What Is Google Chat?

Google Chat is a free platform developed by Google as part of its Google Workspace productivity suite. It was launched as a replacement for Google Hangouts and is designed to enhance team communication. Google Chat integrates with other Google Workspace services, including Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Meet (phone calls).

The platform offers features like direct messaging, group chats, room creation for team discussions, seamless document sharing, and the ability to deliver presentations and hold web conferences. It simplifies team collaboration and communication in one convenient place. The platform is available in browsers, along with mobile apps for both iOS and Android.

Screenshot of the Google Chat's interfaceGoogle Chat makes it easy to message your colleagues and collaborate on projects

Is Google Chat Safe to Use?

Google Chat is generally safe to use. Google has put a lot of emphasis on security and privacy in its products, and Google Chat is no exception. Some key safety measures include:

  • End-to-End Encryption. According to Google’s Help Center: “Your conversations are encrypted end-to-end with a key that only you and other conversation participants can access. When you ask them if they have the same code you have, you can verify end-to-end encryption for your individual and group conversations.” To verify end-to-end encryption for your conversations, tap More > Details > Verify encryption.
  • Transport Layer Security (TLS). By implementing TLS, Google Chat enhances the security of your conversations by encrypting the data in transit and protecting it from eavesdropping and unauthorized access. It's an essential component of Google Chat's overall security infrastructure, providing a safer communication experience for users.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). Google encourages you to use two-factor authentication, providing an extra layer of security to your account. Enabling 2FA requires a secondary verification method to be able to log in, such as a unique code sent to your mobile device in addition to your password.
  • Compliance and Certifications. Google Chat adheres to industry standards and regulations related to data security and privacy. Google undergoes regular audits and holds certifications such as ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type II, and HIPAA compliance, demonstrating its commitment to maintaining a secure environment.
  • Conversation Data Isn’t Shared. While Google may collect and analyze user data to improve its services, personalize content, and serve targeted advertisements, they have specific policies regarding the use of message content in Google Chat. According to these policies, the content of user messages in Google Chat are not used for personalized advertising. It’s also worth noting that all stored data is encrypted.
  • Scam and Phishing Protection. Google employs advanced algorithms and filters to detect and mitigate spam messages and phishing attempts.
  • User Permissions and Controls. The app allows you to control who can message you directly. You can also block and report users, which helps protect you from potential online harassment.
  • Sharing Permissions. You have total control over who you share files with. When you share a file from Google Drive, you can manage access permissions, allowing you to decide who can open and view the file. You can also give recipients the ability to comment on or edit the file. This helps ensure your files are shared securely and only with the intended parties.

To ensure a secure experience on Google Chat, it’s essential to refrain from sharing sensitive personal information in chats, stay cautious of phishing attempts, and use a strong and unique password for your Google account. It’s also advised to regularly update your device's software for the latest security enhancements.

Important: Google Chat is subject to Google's privacy policies and data collection practices. While Google Chat offers certain privacy features and encryption, it’s important to note that Google collects and retains user data for various purposes, including improving its services, personalizing content, and serving targeted advertisements.

What Are the Dangers of Google Chat?

While Google Chat has implemented various security measures, it still carries potential risks, especially if not approached responsibly. Let's explore some of the potential hazards that come with using Google Chat:

1. Sensitive Image Access

Every image you share via Google Chat is stored using a publicly accessible URL. This means that any cybercriminal who knows about the structure of these web addresses could potentially trawl through possible URLs looking for sensitive images, which can then be freely downloaded and used without you knowing. It’s also possible for other participants in your Google Chat to share the URLs of your sent images without your permission or knowledge.

Due to this, I’d advise thinking twice before sending sensitive images over Google Chat. If sensitive images must be shared, I would recommend seeking out a more secure alternative.

2. Google Account Takeovers

If someone with malicious intent gains control of your account, they could misuse it in various ways. This may include spreading misinformation, accessing and sharing sensitive data, or even trying to compromise the accounts of the people you communicate with.

It’s also important to note that a Google account hack can compromise a lot of services — the hacker would not only have access to Google Chat, but your Gmail, Google Docs, and more. Even third-party accounts that allow you to sign in with Google can easily be compromised. Always ensure your Google Account is protected with a strong password that’s bolstered by 2FA, and always be cautious of suspicious emails or links sent by strangers.

3. Phishing, Spam, Malware, and Scams

These risks are associated with most digital platforms, including Google Chat. You may receive messages containing links or attachments that, if clicked or downloaded, can install malicious software on your devices.

It’s also possible to receive messages that appear to be from a legitimate source but are actually designed to trick you into revealing sensitive information, like passwords or credit card numbers. Google has anti-phishing measures in place, but no system is foolproof, so it's crucial to remain vigilant and block bad actors.

The most common scams in Google Chat are romance scams. The scammer usually approaches you on a site you’re both on (like Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit) and then asks you to move the conversation to Google Chat. If you fall for this fake personality, you'll most likely be blackmailed with compromising photos or videos and asked for money.

Screenshot of Google Chat SettingsThe app lets you also configure notifications for calls and messages

4. Student Safety

When students use Google Chat for educational purposes, special considerations must be made regarding exposure to inappropriate content or interaction with strangers. It's crucial for schools and parents to monitor usage closely and educate students (especially K-12 students) about online safety to minimize these risks.

Additionally, like any messaging platform, cyber-harassment or bullying can occur on Google Chat. Students may receive hurtful or inappropriate messages from others.

With a Google Workspace for Education license (free for qualified educational institutions), administrators can set up monitoring of Google Chats and screen for harassment, sexual content, self-harm, and more in student messages. Messages reported by students will also be sent to the administrator for review. This functionality is essential in ensuring student safety.

Google Chat Alternatives

If you’re not sure if Google Chat is right for you or your company, here are a list of other popular chat apps on the market that may be more secure for your particular needs:

  1. Slack. This popular Google Chat alternative is known for its intuitive interface, organized discussions through channels, seamless file sharing, and extensive integration capabilities. Like Google Chat, it secures all conversations with encryption during transit and at rest, but it also offers integrations with top data loss prevention providers.
  2. Zoom Team Chat. Alongside its well-known video conferencing capabilities, Zoom provides a team chat feature. You can send text, images, audio files, and documents and organize chats into channels for more efficient communication. Zoom also features robust security allowing for end-to-end encrypted meetings.
  3. Microsoft Teams. With features like chat, video meetings, file sharing, and integrated Office 365 tools, Teams provides a centralized hub for teamwork. Teams also enforces organization-wide 2FA, minimizing the risk of hacks and account takeovers.
  4. Mattermost. This platform is designed for secure team communication. With self-hosting options and open-source code, Mattermost allows organizations to have full control over their messaging platform. Its focus on privacy and security makes it an appealing choice for businesses seeking a customizable and secure communication solution.
Pro Tip: Google Chat is primarily designed for work and professional communication. If you’re looking for an app that’s better-suited for personal chats (and is more secure than the popular WhatsApp), check out our top secure messaging apps.

FAQs on Google Chat

Is Google Chat right for your organization?

Google Chat can be an excellent choice for organizations already using Google Workspace, as it integrates seamlessly with other Google applications like Gmail, Docs, and Calendar. Google Chat is useful for real-time communication and collaboration to help boost productivity, and it's relatively secure when used responsibly.

Is Google Chat safe from hackers and scams?

Google Chat has robust security measures to protect against hackers and scams, including end-to-end encryption for direct messages, strong user authentication, and anti-phishing features. However, Google Chat is not completely impervious to cyber threats. The most common Google Chat scams include romance scams, cryptocurrency schemes (for example, Pig Butchering), fake job interviews, sextortion, and bogus giveaway scams.

Practicing good security habits, such as using strong and unique passwords, enabling two-factor authentication, and being cautious of suspicious emails or links, is crucial. If you think you might have been scammed, block and report the suspicious user, scan your device for malware, monitor your accounts, and freeze your credit card if necessary.

Is Google Chat more secure than WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram?

Google Chat is a safe platform with many security and privacy features. However, making a direct comparison is challenging as each platform has its own security measures. Google Chat protects your messages with end-to-end encryption, extensive permission controls, and 2FA.

It's important to note that no communication platform is entirely immune to security risks, and the perception of security can vary based on individual needs and preferences. It’s advisable to review each platform's specific security features and privacy policies to make an informed decision about which one aligns best with your desired level of security and privacy.

Is Google Chat Linked to Gmail?

Yes, Google Chat is integrated with Gmail. You can access Google Chat directly from your Gmail interface, making it easy to switch between emailing and chatting. Plus, you can use Google Chat with other Google Workspace apps for improved productivity.

Can Google Chat be monitored?

Google Chat conversations can be monitored by your organization if you are using it within a workspace setting. Google offers a tool called Google Vault for Workspace users, which allows organizations to retain, archive, search, and export chat messages. However, for personal use, Google doesn’t actively monitor your chats.

However, be aware that Google does store your chat conversations. While these are not shared with advertisers, it is possible Google may share such data with authorities upon legal request.

Is Google Chat (Google Hangouts) safe for online dating?

Online dating with Google Chat can be dangerous. Google Chat sees a lot of romance scams, where scammers will lead you into sending sensitive information and pictures, which are then used to blackmail you for money. The scammer can easily share any information or photos you send on social media for example — leaving you cornered.

To see if your latest date could be a scam artist in disguise, try the following.

  • Google their name and see if anything suspicious comes up.
  • Check their profile picture. Does it look fake or too good to be true? You can also use the profile picture in a Google Image Search, to see if it has been stolen from a stock image site or another online profile.
  • Read through your chat history and get a sense of their intentions. Are they trying to rush you into divulging large amounts of personal information or photos? Are they making grand promises for someone you’ve only just met online? These could indicate they’re a scammer, interested only in your money.

If you spot any red flags, cut off contact immediately. You can block and report the user on Google Chat to hopefully prevent the scammer from attempting to trick anyone else.

Is Google Chat free?

Yes, Google Chat is available for free. It’s part of the Google Workspace suite of productivity tools, which includes other applications like Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Docs. While Google Workspace offers paid plans with additional features and storage options, the basic version of Google Chat is accessible to users at no cost.

Wrapping Up

Google Chat is a communication tool that provides a relatively secure platform for personal and professional interactions. It comes with robust security features such as end-to-end encryption, strong user authentication, and anti-phishing protections. Combined with good digital practices, it’s a relatively safe communication tool.

However, it's essential to remember that safety and security on any platform ultimately relies on your own awareness and actions. Stay informed about potential threats, be cautious with the information you share, and regularly review and update your security settings. By doing so, you can fully leverage the benefits of Google Chat while keeping your digital environment secure.

Privacy Alert!

Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!

Your IP Address:

Your Location:

Your Internet Provider:

The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.

VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend ExpressVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 49% off.

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We review vendors based on rigorous testing and research but also take into account your feedback and our affiliate commission with providers. Some providers are owned by our parent company.
Learn more
vpnMentor was established in 2014 as an independent site reviewing VPN services and covering privacy-related stories. Today, our team of hundreds of cybersecurity researchers, writers, and editors continues to help readers fight for their online freedom in partnership with Kape Technologies PLC, which also owns the following products: ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Private Internet Access which may be ranked and reviewed on this website. The reviews published on vpnMentor are believed to be accurate as of the date of each article, and written according to our strict reviewing standards that prioritize the independent, professional and honest examination of the reviewer, taking into account the technical capabilities and qualities of the product together with its commercial value for users. The rankings and reviews we publish may also take into consideration the common ownership mentioned above, and affiliate commissions we earn for purchases through links on our website. We do not review all VPN providers and information is believed to be accurate as of the date of each article.

About the Author

Husain Parvez is a Cybersecurity Researcher and News Writer at vpnMentor, focusing on VPN reviews, detailed how-to guides, and hands-on tutorials. Husain is also a part of the vpnMentor Cybersecurity News bulletin and loves covering the latest events in cyberspace and data privacy.

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