WhatsApp fingerprint authentication update could stop police accessing messages 

WhatsApp is developing a new security update that will mean users will have to authenticate their identity through their fingerprint to open the app.

The popular messaging platform, owned by Facebook, has started working on a fingerprint locking mechanism for Android phones. 

The app has already been criticised for its unbreakable end-to-end encryption system, meaning only people in conversations can see their contents.  

The latest update will make it harder for police, intelligence and other law enforcement agencies to read messages sent by criminals and terrorists.

Spotted by WABetaInfo, a website that tracks WhatsApp’s developments, the update is still in the ‘alpha stage of development’ – the first of two testing phases – but will be rolled out in future versions.

The security system blocks governments and law enforcement from intercepting messages from people who might be using the platform for illegal activities.  

WABetaInfo indicates that v2.19.3 for Android will have the new authentication feature.

It will let users open the app using their fingerprint upon loading WhatsApp, but it will not protect individual conversations.

WABetaInfo said: ‘The app will be completely protected, so the user will need to authenticate his identity in order to open WhatsApp.  

Last July, WhatsApp admitted that its encryption software could be abused by criminals and terrorists.

This followed revelations that security services were powerless to access Westminster attacker Khalid Masood’s messages after his death in 2017. 

The then-Home secretary Amber Rudd vowed to ‘call time’ on internet firms who give terrorists ‘a place to hide’.

‘We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,’ Ms Rudd told BBC’s Andrew Marr shortly after the attack, in which five people were killed. 

The new print authentication could now make it even harder for security services to access encrypted communications from possible criminals. 

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