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Facebook Messenger is releasing a new privacy setting that allows users to apply their mobile device’s authentication processes, like Face ID and fingerprint ID, to the Messenger app.
The new security feature, called App Lock, will be part of a new privacy settings section in the app that allows users to more easily mute stories, select audiences for the stories they post, and block other users. The debut of App Lock provides another layer of protection so others can’t access any personal information or chats inside the app without additional authentication, especially in cases where users lend out or lose their phones. Facebook said users’ facial information and fingerprints will not be transmitted to or stored by the service.
The feature is available on the iPhone and iPad starting Wednesday and is expected to roll out to Android devices in the next few months.
The news comes as Facebook works to continuously beef up user privacy for its family of apps, which includes Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. For years the company has struggled with user privacy, which has led to a number of data breaches and scandals, including the 2016 Cambridge Analytica debacle that led to a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Since then, as part of the FTC deal and to avoid future issues, the company has been rolling out additional security and transparency tools.
Late last year, the company introduced new privacy settings for Instagram that allowed users to control who can send them direct messages. On Monday, Facebook announced that it will start asking users in Brazil for permission to utilize their data as part of Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados, the country’s new data protection law.
In addition to the new authentication options released on Wednesday, Facebook said it’s working on several other privacy controls for Messenger. The company said it will begin testing those features in “upcoming months.”
Facebook said it plans to give users control of who can message or call them through the app, who is sent to their requests folder, and who won’t have the ability to message or call them. Facebook also plans to test a feature that will blur images appearing in messages in their requests folder. The feature, which already exists on Instagram and WhatsApp, will give users the choice to view an image from someone they may not know.
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