WhatsApp, the popular messaging app with more than 2 billion users, has taken a lot of heat and lost users in recent weeks after announcing (and then delaying) changes to the way it shares data with its owner. Facebook. And it’s not done with the way it polishes privacy and security. Now, it is adding a new biometric feature to the service to bring a new layer of authentication to those who use its web and desktop versions.
The company said that starting today, it will allow users to add a fingerprint, face or iris to use WhatsApp on the desktop or on the web.
The feature is part of a new look for desktop versions, before what the company hints at, more updates will be coming soon.
With the new feature, you will now have the option (not mandatory) to add a biometric login, which uses either a fingerprint, face ID or iris ID – depending on the device – on Android handsets. or iPhone, to add a second level of authentication.
Once implemented, it will appear to users before a desktop or web version can be associated with a mobile app account, which today relies solely on the use of a QR code: the QR code does not. not disappear; This is a second step that users will need to take, in the same way that you can choose to implement two authentication steps on a handset to use the WhatsApp mobile app today.
WhatsApp says that on iPhone it will work with all devices running iOS 14 and above with Touch ID or Face ID, while on Android it will work on any device that supports biometric authentication (Face Unlock, Fingerprint Unlock or Iris Unlock ).
The service is another step forward in WhatsApp, creating more parity in functionality between its flagship mobile apps and the way you interact with the service when using it elsewhere.
While WhatsApp started out as a mobile messaging app, it has over the years developed other ways to use it, such as adding desktop support in 2015 to the iOS version.
Mobile still represents the majority of WhatsApp users, but events such as global health pandemics, which keep more of us indoors, are likely to lead to an increase in the number of users of its web and desktop applications. native, and so it makes sense that it is. add more features there.
WhatsApp told TechCrunch that it will add more features this year to bring the functionality of the two closer together. There are still big loopholes: for example, you can’t make calls on the web version of WhatsApp. (This feature may be available soon: As of last month, it started to be spotted in beta testing.)
To be clearer, the biometric service, which is activated worldwide, will be opt-in. Users will need to go to their settings to enable the feature, just like today they need to go to their settings to enable biometric authentication for their mobile apps.
What’s the next step for biometrics?
WhatsApp’s recent announcements regarding data sharing changes between it and Facebook have made many people aware of the company’s intentions. And this is no surprise. This is a particularly sensitive issue as messaging has been thought of as a very personal and sometimes private space, seen as separate from what people do on more open social media platforms.
Over the years, however, that view has been eroded by data leaks, group messaging abuse, and (yes) changes in privacy terms.
This means that there will likely be a lot of people who doubt Facebook’s intentions here as well.
WhatsApp is pretty clear in pointing out that it can’t access the biometric information you’ll store in your device, and that it uses the same standard biometric authentication APIs that other secure apps, like banking apps, use.
But the parallel of banking applications is remarkable here, and perhaps it is worth thinking more about it. Consider how the company has added a lot more features and functionality to WhatsApp, including the ability to pay for goods and services, and in markets like India, testing to offer insurance products and services. retirement.
Yes, this new biometric feature is being rolled out today to create a more secure way for users to link apps across different devices. But for the sake of this feature parity, going forward it will be interesting to see how and if biometrics might emerge when these other features are rolled out beyond mobile as well.