Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp has announced that a new update will allow most users to use biometrics and multi-factor authentication if they want to sync their account with WhatsApp’s browser or desktop app.
The update will be limited to those among its 2 billion users that have WhatsApp installed on device with biometric capabilities.
For iPhone it will apply to anyone with Face ID or Touch ID and iOS 14 or greater installed, while Android users will need to have either a Face Unlock, Fingerprint Unlock, or Iris Unlock-capable smartphone.
When the new feature is available and the user tries to access their WhatsApp account on either the web or desktop app, they will be prompted to authenticate their identity using whichever biometric modality they have on their device. Once successful, the user will then be asked to continue with the familiar QR code scan to officially sync the account across the two devices, after which they will be able to send and receive messages from their computer.
In September of 2020, an analysis of code from an unreleased beta version of WhatsApp’s web app revealed the messaging platform was preparing to add fingerprint authentication for its Android users.
“As people increasingly use WhatsApp Web and desktop to communicate privately with their friends and family, we wanted to introduce an additional security protection to provide peace of mind to users,” a WhatsApp spokesperson told USA Today.
As for any privacy concerns that will undoubtedly arise from allowing a Facebook entity access to even more personal data, the company says that the app can’t actually access the biometric information as it is stored on the user’s device’s operating system and is therefore out of their reach.
Last week, it was revealed that WhatsApp for Business — the app’s enterprise version — would be getting a biometric voice authentication feature courtesy of a joint effort between biometric solutions provider ID R&D and conversation management platform Wittybots by SimpleTech.