Google Hangouts can now utilise peer-to-peer connections for communication. In a new update to its messaging and voice and video calling app, Google rolled out the feature to Android, iOS, and the Web. The addition of peer-to-peer protocol for communications is aimed at improving the voice calling experience.
The search giant recently started to notify users on their phone about this new feature. Over the weekend the Mountain View-based company confirmed that it has rolled out peer-to-peer feature to Hangouts. The company, however, also noted that the feature isn’t being utilised at all times. “To improve call quality and speed, Hangouts will route audio and video over a peer-to-peer connection when possible,” a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat.
The inclusion of peer-to-peer protocol for calling, Google says, allows the app to reroute the call to the recipient or caller instead of going through Google’s servers. While this improves the quality, as the packets have to travel a shorter distance – which in turn, takes less time – there’s a downside to this as well.
In a support document, Google has revealed that a direct peer-to-peer communication also discloses the IP addresses of all the participating parties. “A direct peer-to-peer connection between you and the other person reveals both your IP addresses. With an IP address, it’s possible to approximate your location.”
If an attacker gets hold of your IP address, they can potentially find your location. They can also perform a range of attacks such as denial-of-service (DDoS) on your IP address. The specifics of how Google handles the IP address is unclear. To recall, Skype also utilises P2P connection for calling. Microsoft’s app and service just recently stopped disclosing IP addresses.