WhatsApp has rolled out fingerprint authentication for users on its beta programme for Android.

If activated by the user, WhatsApp fingerprint authentication will provide several options to secure the world’s most popular messaging app.

Users can choose to unlock the app with their fingerprint every time they access it. Or, they can choose to be prompted to provide fingerprint authentication after varying degrees of time, such as one minute or 30 minutes.

Beta testers running version 2.19.221 of the app can activate fingerprint authentication in WhatsApp settings under Privacy, as first reported by WaBetaInfo. Users can still answer WhatsApp calls without fingerprint authentication. There is no capability to lock individual chats.

Another feature is the option to hide the content of message previews while fingerprint authentication is activated.

Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at security firm ESET welcomed the addition of WhatsApp fingerprint authentication.

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“Privacy is increasingly becoming more necessary and playing a more vital role with all the key tech players currently,” he said.

“They are starting to see the value in protecting communications, but more importantly, it forces those who are not as aware of the risks to become protected.

“There really is no limit in what we can do to protect our data and this will no doubt knock-on to other app protection where biometrics enhance the security from within the app itself. We already see it in banking apps and password managers, so this just the next step.

“Many people continue to use simple codes that are related to them to unlock their phones, so if someone were to crack it, this new WhatsApp feature will include a further layer of protection.”

It’s not clear when the Facebook-owned company will roll fingerprint authentication out to all Android users. iOS users have had fingerprint authentication since February, as well as the option to secure WhatsApp with Face ID.

WhatsApp is favoured by many for its use of end-to-end encryption. However, its security was brought into question following the revelation that a security flaw could give attackers control over a phone simply by making a WhatsApp voice call.

WhatsApp – and by extension Facebook – will not have access to the biometric data because it uses Android APIs, which means the data remains on the handset.

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