Fingerprint scanning is coming to Chromebooks

Speculate no more. Google is actively working on a fingerprint unlock feature for Chrome OS.

Later this year, Chromebook owners with the appropriate hardware may be able to unlock their laptops with their fingerprint. Chrome Story recently spotted a new flag in Chrome OS Canary that discusses “Quick Unlock (Fingerprint).”

Mentions of fingerprint security features are also scattered throughout the changelog for Chrome OS 58.0.3007.0 that was released to the Dev Channel on February 14. Google routinely adds new features (or parts of them) to Dev Channel releases without fanfare. Hints of Google’s fingerprint plans for Chrome OS first surfaced last September.

Chromebooks went mainstream with Bluetooth-based authentication via a smartphone in early 2015—a feature that may soon be widely available on Windows 10. But Chrome OS lags behind with biometric authentication, a feature that is becoming more common on Windows and macOS devices.

It’s not clear if Chrome OS fingerprint scanning will support third-party peripherals the way Windows does, or if the hardware will have to be built into each Chromebook. In an ideal world both implementations will be supported.

The story behind the story: A Chrome OS fingerprint scanner could have implications beyond device unlocks. As Chrome Unboxed points out, some Android apps support fingerprint authentication. It’s conceivable that fingerprint scanning would work with Android apps running on a Chromebook. That is just speculation, however, and it may be that Android app support for fingerprint scanning would follow long after fingerprint unlock rolls out—if it happens at all.

Chrome 58 is expected to roll out to all platforms on the stable channel in April.

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Ian Paul

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