iPhone users can now protect their chats with Touch ID or Face ID
Facebook has added biometric authentication to WhatsApp, allowing users to better prevent unauthorised access to their conversations.
The new feature is currently only available to iOS users, and can be accessed by updating the app to version 2.19.20 from the Apple App Store and going into the settings menu and selecting 'account', 'privacy' and then 'screen lock'.
Android users, meanwhile, are still restricted to version 2.19.17, which does not include biometric support. According to info from WAbetainfo.com, however, the feature is set to be introduced to Android devices with version 2.19.3.
The app now supports both Touch ID and Face ID, meaning that even if your device is unlocked, snoopers won't be able to read your messages - although message previews and quick replies in notifications will still be accessible, assuming you've activated this feature. The feature uses an app-wide locking system, which means that you can't protect individual chats with fingerprint or face recognition - just the whole app.
The new security features follow CEO Mark Zuckerberg's announcement that Facebook was planning to merge the backends of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger into a single platform, raising the possibility that biometric security could soon be introduced to Facebook's other apps.
WhatsApp is currently the only major Facebook-owned app to support biometric authentication, although rumours indicated that it was being internally tested for Facebook back in 2017. WhatsApp also uses end-to-end encryption to secure chats, which Instagram and Messenger currently do not. Data protection authorities have already started expressing "urgent" interest in what the potential merger could mean for data privacy.