Meta's WhatsApp is working on getting its hands on user email addresses
When users create a WhatsApp account, they can only do so by linking a phone number to the account. While that makes sense logistically to a degree, it has also been criticized by privacy advocates ever since the first app versions of WhatsApp were released.
The latest beta version of WhatsApp for Android includes a new feature, still under development, that is elevating the email address from being solely used as part of WhatsApp's two-factor authentication security feature.
Details are murky at the time, but this is what we know about the feature at the present stage. WhatsApp beta version 188.8.131.52 for Android introduces a new security feature that is using an email address for account verification and protection.
Our well-informed colleagues over at Wabetainfo have discovered the new feature. WhatsApp users may add an email address to their WhatsApp account.
Account verification by email is a much requested feature by users of the service. It is unclear at this point whether this addition is used in emergency situations only or as an alternative to phone number verifications.
Potential scenarios include verification of the account when access to the device that WhatsApp is installed on is not possible anymore, e.g., because it has been lost or was stolen.
Adding the email address appears to be an optional feature that Meta plans to integrate into WhatsApp. It appears to have no connections to the email address entered when configuring two-step verification in the client.
While it may not become as essential as configuring two-step verification in WhatsApp to improve the account's protection against unauthorized access, it may still be used widely by users of the service, especially if it improves recoverability of accounts or additional security protections.
WhatsApp users may consider using a unique email address for WhatsApp specifically; this can be done either by creating a new email address or using email forwarding systems, such as Firefox Relay Anonaddy or SimpleLogin.
The exact functionality that the new email integration in WhatsApp provides is unclear at this stage. In best case, it could introduce email verifications of accounts as an option, so that users don't have to verify using the device's phone number. In worst case, it adds little but provides Meta-owned WhatsApp with an additional data set of email addresses linked to phone numbers.
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