At a time when popular social media platform WhatsApp is facing immense backlash, the Facebook-owned messaging service has announced an update for providing additional protection to a user’s account when they link it to a computer. The new privacy feature, which will go global in the coming weeks, will ensure that users have to verify their identity before linking their accounts to the web or desktop using biometrics.
“This year we’re going to be adding a lot more functionality to our apps for Mac and Windows, as well as the Web. We want WhatsApp Web and desktop to be just as robust as our mobile apps so people can communicate privately and securely in whatever way is best for them, in their palms or on their computers,” the platform said in a press release on Thursday. Millions of people around the globe access WhatsApp on their personal computers or laptops. This makes the process of securing accounts on WhatsApp web extremely important.
To that end, WhatsApp will now need the face or fingerprint scan of a user to authenticate their identity for WhatsApp Web. For iPhone users, verification of their accounts using Face ID is necessary. After the face or fingerprint unlock on the phone, users will have to scan a QR code (just like they already do) from the phone to link their devices.
If users are concerned that this will enable the company to access their biometric information, they can put their concerns to rest. According to WhatsApp’s press release, “the face and fingerprint authentication take place on your device in a privacy-preserving manner – by design, WhatsApp cannot access the biometric information stored by your device’s operating system.”
“We’re putting even more security into WhatsApp Web and desktop, adding an additional layer of protection when you want to link your WhatsApp account to your computer,” WhatsApp said in the press release. This will build on existing security measures, which pop up a notice in your phone whenever a Web/Desktop login occurs, and also provides users the ability to unlink devices from their phone at any time.
Similarly, the security verification will pop up whenever a user will link their account to a new laptop or PC, and scanning the QR code from the phone.
According to WhatsApp, the new feature will “limit the chance that a housemate or officemate can link devices” to their WhatsApp account without the user finding out, thus adding extra security. Additionally, users will be able to unlink devices from their phones at any time.
The security update will also include a virtual redesign to the WhatsApp Web page on phones, and to users with compatible devices. The new User Interface (UI) will replace the ‘+’ icon with “link a device.”