The embattled messaging app, WhatsApp, is bolstering its security measures by introducing biometric authentication to connect your WhatsApp account with its desktop app or web client.
The existing process only relies on a QR code to identify and link the accounts, but WhatsApp is to change this, shoring up its defenses with the recent privacy hoo-ha that has damaged the platform. The company announced the news via a tweet (opens in new tab), stating that the feature will roll out from January 28.
Any Apple iPhones running iOS 14, including the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, will have the setting turned on by default through the use of Face ID or Touch ID. Likewise, it includes any Android devices that use the biometric authentication setting. On that note, T3 has got a whole rundown of the best Android phones: providing you with the best bang for your buck when choosing a new Android handset.
In WhatsApp's new feature, users with the biometric setting turned on, will be asked to link the app to the desktop client through biometric authentication; conversely, if it feels like too much hassle, biometric authentication can be deactivated on your phone to avoid this. This also applies to users who already have the setting turned off, bypassing the need to use biometric verification.
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None of this means that WhatsApp has automatic access to your fingerprint or facial scan data. It leverages the same biometric data APIs that other apps use to verify your identity: PayPal, eBay, and a host of other apps, all offer biometric access without harvesting your personal data.
All users need to accept the new terms of service if they want to continue using WhatsApp. Anyone who hasn’t accepted the new terms before 15 May 2021 will need to do so in order to keep using WhatsApp; however, your account will remain active to allow you to accept the new terms should you change your mind.
It follows our coverage of another update for the WhatsApp desktop interface with the news that some beta users will be able to use video calling on the desktop interface. This will hopefully roll out to the wider public at a later date.
If you’ve already jumped ship after reading T3’s best WhatsApp alternatives guide, it’s worth noting that some of these more privacy-focused alternatives offer biometric functionality to authenticate you in-app, but don’t require biometric authentication to link your phone to the browser.
Droves of people have already left WhatsApp for Signal, as T3 has frequently reported on, causing a huge uptick in users on these platforms. Currently, though, Signal only requires a QR code scan to link your handset to the desktop client. Maybe this could be a new avenue for WhatsApp to show users it means business, overshadowing other apps that haven't got this feature.
If you're skeptical about the host of new features that WhatsApp is rolling out to apparently pacify its fleeing users, then at least some solace can be taken in the fact that these new updates directly strengthen your app's security measures, and there's a huge tangible benefit to be had in that alone.