WhatsApp for iPhone gains secure Face/Touch ID authentication for desktop and web access

WhatsApp is rolling out biometric authentication on iOS and Android for logging in on desktop and the web. The Facebook-owned firm announced the new feature on Twitter this morning.

“Today we’re starting to roll out a new security feature for WhatsApp Web and Desktop: face and fingerprint unlock when linking devices,” reads the tweet. This feature is being rolled out to WhatsApp’s customer base in stages, over the next several weeks.

Jon Porter, The Verge:

The new system will be enabled by default on any iPhone devices running iOS 14 with either Touch ID or Face ID. That means users will have to use it to link their accounts unless they disable biometric authentication for their entire device. Users who don’t have a biometric authentication setup on their phone (or have it turned off) will be able to link their account as usual.

It also works on any Android devices that have biometric authentication enabled.

A secure way to link your WhatsApp account

Linking your WhatsApp account to your browser or the desktop WhatsApp client lets you access any messages you send or receive. Previously, this required scanning a QR code that appears in the web interface at web.whatsapp.com with the WhatsApp camera on your iPhone.

With the change, you have peace of mind knowing that in case someone gains access to your phone, they won’t be able to link your account to the web to read your messages in their web browser. Thanks to Apple’s privacy protections, neither WhatsApp nor Facebook (nor any other developer, for that matter) can access your fingerprint or facial data.

The web app is an extension of the WhatsApp account on your phone that you can use on any computer with a web browser. There are some limitations, of course — namely, the inability to log in to multiple computers and having to keep WhatsApp for iPhone active. On top of that, the web app suffers from the same inherent weaknesses that are plaguing other web-based apps: slower-than-native performance and lack of certain advanced capabilities, to name but a few.

Telegram seizes the opportunity

With 2+ billion users worldwide, WhatsApp is the most popular cross-platform messaging software out there. Facebook recently saw some privacy-first customers leave WhatsApp over its controversial data-sharing prompt concerning the upcoming Facebook integration.

Rivals, however, have seized this opportunity. The secure messaging app Telegram, for instance, has rolled out a tool for importing your WhatsApp chat history on iOS. This feature is available in Telegram’s version 7.4, which is now live in the App Store.

And just a couple of days ago, Telegram took to Twitter to announce a huge increase in user numbers as its customer base has now passed 500 million active users worldwide.